With no more 2021 seasons to look back on — if you missed any of the 72 Dodgers players we reviewed, they are all in one spot for easy perusal — we can now look ahead to the 2022 season, even if the beginning of said season is an unknown quantity at this point.
Dan Szymborski at FanGraphs unveiled his ZiPS projections for the Dodgers on Friday, which foresees stellar seasons from Trea Turner (5.5 WAR) and Mookie Betts (5.3), as well as Walker Buehler (4.6) and Will Smith (4.3). But I’m most interested in statistical projections for Cody Bellinger.
Bellinger suffered through a season that saw him hit just .165/.340/.402 while recovering from shoulder surgery, and missed time with a fractured fibula, a hamstring strain, and cracked ribs over the course of the year. It’s hard to account for such a season just two years after winning National League MVP, let alone trying to discern what to expect going forward. Some improvement seems obvious, if only for Bellinger getting a full, healthy offseason and will enter 2022 a year further removed from shoulder surgery, so he should see a power resurgence of sorts.
Couple in Bellinger’s gradual improvement amid swing changes as the season progressed — he was hitting the ball harder in the second half, as noted by Eno Sarris at The Athletic in December — with his solid performance in the playoffs, there are reasons to be hopeful for Bellinger’s 2022.
In addition to ZiPS, FanGraphs also has Steamer projections. Also, The Bill James Handbook for 2022 has projections of their own, giving us some idea what Bellinger could reasonably be expected to produce this season. But there’s still a wide range. As Szymborski wrote, “I have absolutely no idea what kind of player he really is right now; I wouldn’t be surprised by anything between Ken Griffey Jr. and Craig Griffey.”
Cody Bellinger 2022 projections
|Bill James||590||31||.247/.337/.488||26 doubles|
Bellinger’s isolated power (slugging percentage minus batting average) is projected to be between .227-.248 this year, which is more in line with his career mark of .253. His lowest ISO from 2017-20 was .210, but he cratered at .137 in his injury-filled 2021.
ZiPS have Bellinger, including his defense in center field, at 3.1 fWAR for 2022, which seems more in line with his previous, non-MVP years: 4.0 fWAR in 2017, 3.6 in 2018, and 1.2 in 2020, the latter on pace for 3.2 fWAR over 162 games.
- Another notable ZiPS projection from Szymborski is prospect Miguel Vargas hitting .262/.309/.426 at age 22, after hitting .319/.380/.526, a 142 wRC+ across High-A and Double-A in 2021. Vargas’ 96 OPS+ projection in the majors is right in line with Gavin Lux (.243/.318/.414, 95 OPS+), for comparison.
- Max Scherzer talked with Jorge Castillo at the Los Angeles Times about MLB labor negotiations.
- The trio of Jim Callis, Sam Dykstra, and Jonathan Mayo at MLB.com picked one prospect for all 30 teams to make their MLB debut in 2022. The Dodgers pick was pitcher Bobby Miller, the first-round pick from 2020: “With a heavy fastball that can park in the upper 90s, a sharp mid-80s slider, a developing low-80s curveball and a lively mid-80s changeup, he’ll help the Dodgers as soon as he tightens his command a bit more.”
- Rob Mains at Baseball Prospectus researched quality starts, noting that pitchers throwing a quality start had a 1.80 ERA in 2021, with teams winning 69 percent of those games. Quality accounted for just 33 percent of starts last year, the lowest number ever. “They’re becoming rarer and, at the same time, better than ever,” Mains wrote.
- Walker Buehler, for reference, led MLB with 27 quality starts in 2021, four more than anybody else. Buehler’s ERA in those starts was 1.67 and the Dodgers were 20-7 (.741).