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“Hamilton Sound” Call me crazy, but you should be selling Cody Bellinger

Hello again.

Alright, before you start getting all huffy-puffy and calling me an idiot, let’s preface this post with an obvious caveat: it does not apply to keeper or dynasty leagues.  There is a reason that Bellinger was the #1 Dodger’s prospect and within nearly every prospect list’s top-20 coming into this year.  The 21-year-old is going to be a stalwart in the Dodger’s lineup for years to come.  After posting a .346/.429/.627 slash line with 5 homers and 7 steals over 77 plate appearances in AAA this year, Bellinger got the call-up and has posted a fantastic .283/.342/.604 slash line with 9 homers in 117 plate appearances with the big-league club, good for a .391 wOBA and 145 wRC+.  For context, that wOBA is higher than Nelson Cruz and the WRC+ sits right around Kris Bryant.  There’s a reason the Dodgers scrapped their plans to demote him a few weeks back.  Okay, then, Steve, this seems like a glowing review of Bellinger, why sell?

While you couldn’t have asked for more out of Bellinger in his first 100 plate-appearances, I think the expectation that he’ll continue on this pace is unrealistic. Find someone who thinks it is and sell away.

Let’s start with the underlying numbers, beginning with the K-rate.  Bellinger is striking out in 30% of his plate appearances.  Take a look at this list of players with a K-rate in that range and count how many out of those 30 have batting averages at or above .283.  Three.  That’s three out of 30 players with at least one hundred at bats with batting averages above .283.  The first in Miguel Sano with an absolutely absurd hard-hit rate of 52.9% and an equally absurd 4.7% soft hit rate.  Bellinger stands at 44.4% and 11.1% respectively, which ain’t bad, it’s just not otherworldly like Sano.  The second is Aaron Judge and his crazy batted-ball profile and .453 BABIP.  Not coincidentally, Judge and Sano rank one and two in average exit velocity at 99.9(!) and 95.4 MPH.  Bellinger is no slouch in this regard, he’s just not in this same category as he sits sandwiched between Pablo Sandoval and Yasmany Tomas.  The third .283+ guys is Trey Mancini and his batting average seems to be made wholly from nice matchups and a .362 BABIP.

How many of those 28%+ k guys are hitting under .200?  Seven.  That’s seven out of 30 players with a batting average under .200.  Is Bellinger going to hit under .200 from here on out?  Very likely no … but he’s not going to maintain a high average, given his profile and inflated .391 BABIP.  I mean, he did only hit .264 in A ball in ’15 and .263 in AA ball in ’16.

Further, Bellinger’s plate discipline numbers reflect that the K-rate is not a fluke.  Again, filtering for players with at least 100 at-bats, Bellinger’s Z-Contact% is second-to-last at 69.9%, right behind Keon Broxton.  His Contact% of 65.6% is also terrible ranking 8th worst, sandwiched in between Byron Buxton and Brandon Moss, yikes.  So, he’s not making much contact on strikes or much contact overall.  Leading us to the next point and that is that pitchers have been coming at Bellinger.  Bellinger ranks in the top-25 in the league in terms of percentages of fastballs seen and that’s where he’s done most of his damage.

So, we have a player that is striking out in bunches, not making much contact on pitches in or out of the zone, yet is still seeing fastballs at the same rate as  Brandon Phillips, J.J. Hardy, and Yunel Escobar.  The adjustment against Bellinger is coming and he is going to start seeing a lot more breaking stuff and a lot more stuff outside the zone.  I am sure that Bellinger will be able to adjust, I am just not convinced it won’t be without hiccups this year.  But, but, but Kris Bryant succeeded his rookie year with a 30.6% K-Rate.  Yeah, but he did it with a 77.5 Z-Contact%.  He swung and missed a lot, yes, but he also hit the ball when it was in the zone.  Besides, you want to start comparing every prospect that comes up and gets off to a hot start to Bryant or Harper or Trout and you’re going to be disappointed.

Anyway, let’s see what the projections say for the rest of the season.  ZiPS has a .239/.308/.474 line with 19 home runs; Steamer a .242/.313/.442 line with 16 homeruns; and Depth Charts a .241/.310/.458 line with 18 homeruns.  Not peanuts, but nothing like we have seen so far.  With all the underlying data and projections it’s hard to see Bellinger sustaining the level of success that he has had thus far, at least as far as this year goes.  Again, we’re not talking dynasty or keeper leagues.

We have a player off to a great start, but that start doesn’t seem sustainable, i.e., a sell high.  Bellinger will contribute going forward, but that contribution will look more like what you would get from Lucas Duda or Tommy Joseph and not Nelson Cruz.   That brings us to our final point; Bellinger, if the projections are correct, is never going to be worth more than he is worth right now.  He is that shiny new toy that everyone is kicking themselves for missing out on.  Pat yourself on the back for drafting him/buying him at auction and sell him for now for something more.  Winter is likely coming for Mr. Bellinger.

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Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join guest host Andrea Lamont, and Kyle Amore live on Monday May 15th, 2017 from 7-9pm EST for episode #87 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. We will be previewing the coming week’s key matchups and discussing key fantasy information.

Our guest this week is Lenny Melnick. Lenny is fantasy baseball pioneer, current FSWA Hall of Famer, and the host of his daily podcasts on lennymelnickfantasysports.com Mon-Fri at 9am EST. He also co-hosts a show every Sunday morning from 7-10am EST with Craig Mish on the fantasy sports station on Sirius.

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Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join Corey D Roberts, and Kyle Amore live on Sunday May 21st, 2017 from 7-9pm EST for episode #88 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. We will be previewing the coming week’s key matchups and discussing key fantasy information.

Our guest this week is Kevin Bzdek. Kevin is a writer with majorleaguefantasysports.com. His articles focus on bullpens and publish every Friday.

You can find our shows on I-Tunes. Just search for Major League Fantasy Sports in the podcasts section. For Android users go to “Podcast Republic,” then download that app, and search for “Major League Fantasy Sports Show”

I have been playing fantasy baseball for about a decade over just about every format. Long time player, but first time writer. Hope to provide you helpful, informative, and entertaining insight throughout the season.

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