Dodgers handy man Cody Bellinger is making his case as the best player in baseball

Dodgers outfielder Cody Bellinger leads the majors with 5.9 wins above replacement and could accrue 10-plus WAR this season if he keeps hitting and defending like he has so far in 2019. Joe Robbins/Getty Images

After being benched in the World Series, Cody Bellinger now leads MLB in WAR and owns the lefties who once owned him. How's he done it? The Los Angeles Dodgers' All-Star wields five tools like a master craftsman.

Hitting for average

Bellinger is a true Triple Crown threat (.358, 24 homers, 60 RBIs) thanks to that huge improvement against left-handers -- he's hitting .359 with a 1.188 OPS against them (.226/.681 last year). He has cut his strikeout rate (14.8 percent) nearly in half from two seasons ago and bumped his contact rate (77.1 percent) to a career best. Oh, and he leads MLB with 6.2 WAR. If he accrues WAR at this pace, he'll finish with 13.3, within shouting distance of Babe Ruth's single-season record (14.1).

Hitting for power

Bellinger set a Dodgers record with 14 home runs through April. His homer rate (7.7 percent of his plate appearances end in round-trippers) is almost double the MLB average (4.1 percent). He's accomplishing all this because he's hitting everything squarely. If he maintains his line drive rate of 40.6 percent, it would be the best of anyone in the past decade. Figuring out how to hit lefties hasn't hurt either. He's gone deep 10 times in 92 at-bats against them. He had just six homers facing lefties in 2018.


For a man who's 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds, Bellinger is sneaky-quick. He gets out of the box and up the line faster than anyone else; his average speed from home to first this season is 3.89 seconds, .51 of a second faster than the man he replaced in right field, Yasiel Puig. Bellinger's sprint speed -- his average on max-effort runs -- is 29.1 feet per second (MLB average: 27), which also helps him in the field: He is second in the NL in outs above average, a range-based skill metric, with 5.


Entering this season, Bellinger had just three career outfield assists. This year he was tied for the MLB lead with eight through 62 games. The last player to notch seven helpers and at least 19 homers in his first 53 games? Ruth, in 1932 -- but it took him 63 games to get assist No. 8. Bellinger showed off his howitzer against the Mets on May 27, when he nailed two runners. He charged on a single and fired a frozen rope home for an easy tag-out, then unleashed a laser from right that reached third on the fly.


Bellinger spent much of last season at first base, a relatively stationary position, and logged just 11 regular-season innings in right, where he's playing now. Despite having to adjust to a corner-outfield spot that demands elite athleticism, the 23-year-old leads baseball in both defensive WAR (1.7) and defensive runs saved (21). Suffice it to say that if the Dodgers are still winning deep into October, Bellinger will be in the lineup -- and in the outfield -- for every game and most likely in serious contention for MVP.