Winning a major award is nothing new to Cody Bellinger. The Los Angeles Dodgers slugger was unanimously voted National League Rookie of the Year in 2017. Now Bellinger can add NL MVP to his already impressive résumé after a vote by the Baseball Writers Associated of America.
Bellinger received 19 of 30 first-place votes. Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich, who won the NL MVP last season, received 10 first-place to finish second in the balloting. Washington Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon received the other first-place vote.
Bellinger is the Dodgers’ 12th MVP, matching their number of all-time Cy Young winners. He’s the first since pitcher Clayton Kershaw won the award in 2014.
The 23-year-old Bellinger blossomed into one of MLB’s best players after taking a noted step back during his sophomore season. Bellinger made adjustments to his swing during the offseason and added versatility on defense, moving from first base to right field and winning a Gold Glove award in the process.
Offensively, Bellinger finished the season with a .305/.406/.629 batting line to go along with 47 homers, 115 RBIs, 95 walks and 15 stolen bases.
As in the AL MVP race, a late-season injury changed the dynamic of the NL race. Despite Bellinger’s big numbers, Yelich was shaping up as the clear favorite to win back-to-back MVPs before a fractured kneecap ended his season on Sept. 10. Yelich still led the league in batting average (.329), on-base percentage (.429) and slugging percentage (.671). He finished with 44 homers, 97 RBIs, 80 walks and 30 stolen bases.
The Brewers’ late-season surge to make the postseason without Yelich may have dented his case slightly. Bellinger was clearly the best player on a Dodgers team that won 106 games despite dealing with a rash of injuries.
Rendon had a strong case for most of the season, but dropped off just enough in September to remove him from the picture. He hit .319 with 34 home runs, 126 RBIs and 44 doubles. If the postseason were included, Rendon may have actually jumped to the head of this class. He was arguably the best player on the field throughout October. It was too late for the MVP award, but not too late to increase his value in free agency.
It would have been very interesting to see how this race played out with a healthy Yelich. As it is, Bellinger more than earned his latest accolade.
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