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Cody Bellinger's Comeback Has Been One Of Baseball's Best Stories In 2023

I can't think of many young careers in recent memory that have featured highs as high as Cody Bellinger's and lows as low as Cody Bellinger's. He was an elite player at his peak, winning Rookie Of The Year in 2017 and running away with the National MVP award in 2019. At his worst, he was borderline unplayable for the Dodgers. His 2021 campaign will go down as one of the worst seasons ever by an MVP, in which he put up a mind-boggling 44 OPS+ and a bWAR of -1.7. The Cubs took a flyer out on Bellinger in free agency after last season. No one knew what version of Cody they were going to get, but it's safe to say Bellinger's turnaround in Chicago has been a genuine surprise. He'll probably never be the perennial All-Star that he was his first few years in Los Angeles, but he's put together one hell of a comeback season in 2023, and if all is right and just, and if the Cubs know what they're doing, he'll be playing on a contending team here real soon.

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I wish I could adequately explain what the hell happened to Cody Bellinger after his transcendent MVP season in 2019. Many people have theories, some of which are scandalous. But I've never seen a young player go from MVP caliber to below replacement level in such a fast period. What went wrong? Literally everything. He stopped making hard contact, getting on base, and lifting the ball. The only thing he added to the Dodgers in his last two years was his defense. The script was flipped in 2023. While his defense is still solid, but Bellinger has seen an offensive resurgence in 2023. He missed a fair amount of time due to injury, but when he's played, he's been elite. But his last month has been the best baseball he's played since his MVP season in 2019. Since returning from the injured list on June 15th, Bellinger's OPS is 1.031. In the month of June alone, he's reaching base at a .475 clip. He went nuts in the most recent series against St. Louis, driving in nine runs in three games. His trade value is now at an all-time high, which is perfect timing for a Cubs team on the verge of trading assets.

What's unique about Bellinger's situation is that he's not some mid-30s journeyman who found his power stroke following a change of scenery. This isn't Matt Carpenter in his age 36 season putting balls in the right field seats at Yankee Stadium in 2022. Bellinger is still only 28 years old, meaning someone will likely trade for him at the deadline and some team will also sign him to a multiyear deal in the off-season. This begs the question, which version of Cody Bellinger will you get? He's been sensational this year but only played 67 games, and his two previous seasons were complete disasters. Somewhere in this guy is an All-Star caliber hitter and a versatile defender. But on the flip side, there's also the potential that this guy could be a .500 OPS player like he was with the Dodgers in 2021. If he continues to produce at the level that he has over the last month, he will become the most dangerous position player on the market. If completely healthy and productive, Bellinger makes the team that acquires him an immediate contender.