Los Angeles Dodgers: This Cody Bellinger comparison may surprise you

Jun 11, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers left fielder Cody Bellinger (35) hits a solo home run against the Cincinnati Reds during the eighth inning at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 11, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers left fielder Cody Bellinger (35) hits a solo home run against the Cincinnati Reds during the eighth inning at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports /

Cody Bellinger has taken the Los Angeles Dodgers, and the entire league, by storm.

He is tall, athletic and left-handed with an effortless, majestic swing. Hitting home runs at a record clip, he appears to be a rookie superstar nonpareil for the Los Angeles Dodgers. But squint your eyes during the Dodger Stadium twilight while Cody Bellinger is batting and you may be reminded of another sweet-swinging Los Angeles lefty: Darryl Strawberry.

Born two generations apart, their backgrounds are disparate – Strawberry, the Crenshaw HS graduate from a working class family, was the first pick in the 1980 amateur draft by the New York Mets. Bellinger, the son of a major leaguer, was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the fourth round of the 2013 draft out of Hamilton HS in Chandler, Arizona.

Expectations were heaped on Strawberry from the day he received his signing bonus, and he exceeded them throughout every level of the Mets’ farm system. Bellinger, seen as “projectable,” was supposed to become a big league ballplayer, but not necessarily a star.

Looking closely, the pre-draft scouting reports show a remarkable amount of similarity. Bellinger’s MLB.com scouting profile from 2013 shows him with a “very uncomplicated, easy swing. . .a disciplined hitter with very good mechanics, it will be very surprising if Bellinger doesn’t hit for a high batting average throughout his career.”

Strawberry’s scouting profile from The Scouting Report: 1983, states that Strawberry “swings easily, but the ball jumps off his bat. He has enough power to hit balls out to right and left-center field […] Strawberry should become a solid No. 3 or 4 hitter.”

Both players have similar builds. Bellinger is listed at 6’4″, 210 pounds – not quite two full inches shorter than Strawberry, and 15 pounds heavier. They both have the sweeping swing associated with power hitters, but lightning quick hands to pull through the zone.

Both men feast on fastballs. And, much like Strawberry, as evidenced by some of Bellinger’s early homeruns, his ability to keep the ball fair on low-and-inside curveballs are a testament to his hand strength and quickness.

Considered “exceedingly athletic” for a first baseman, It is also worth remembering that Bellinger is naturally an outfielder – just like Strawberry.  Strawberry’s speed was phenomenal – the scouting report says, “Darryl has exceptional speed, and was the fastest player in the Mets’ minor league organization last season. He is a threat to steal virtually any time that he is on base.”

Bellinger is crafty and a smart baserunner, however, and has been able to swipe close to double-digit stolen bases each season in the minor leagues. The reality is that Strawberry’s actual prowess compares favorably with Bellinger. The Straw never stole more than 15 bags after 1988.

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The comparisons continue further – Strawberry’s defense was projected as “better than average range, and a powerful arm. […] He has good instincts and appears to know how to play the game.”

Bellinger’s stated the he “showed outstanding footwork and soft hands. […] His reactions and agility were noteworthy. Bellinger made tough plays look easy due to his baseball instincts. I believe he is capable of Gold Glove-type defense.”

The Dodgers certainly hope that the early career path of Bellinger aligns with Strawberry, who won Rookie of the Year honors and placed four times in the top ten of National League MVP voting while starting his career with nine consecutive All-Star appearances.

With a Major League Baseball record 22 home runs in his first 52 games, it appears Bellinger is well on his way to achieving star status in the same town in which Strawberry was born.

And though Strawberry’s well-documented downfall has been recounted numerous times, this hand-written scouting report of Strawberry by Hugh Alexander in 1980 hints at the promise that may materialize with Cody Bellinger: “Just might be that superstar of the very near future. Can do it all.”

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Though not exactly Strawberry’s doppelgänger, with just the right light, you can see and feel that Bellinger might be the Straw that stirs the  Los Angeles Dodgers’ drink for 2017 and beyond.