Cody Bellinger has had an ineffective and injury-marred 2021 season to say the very least. Perhaps we should have realized the baseball gods were not favoring Bellinger when he hit what should have been a home run on Opening Day. Justin Turner, who was on first base, thought the ball had been caught, and retreated to the bag. Bellinger passed him on the basepaths, resulting in a single instead of the homer. It has pretty much been downhill from there for the 2019 National League MVP. Bellinger was spiked on a play at first base several days later, resulting in what was initially designated as a calf contusion. But when Bellinger failed to progress in his recovery, an additional scan was ordered. It was then revealed that he had a hairline fracture in his fibula. He ended up missing eight weeks with the injury.
A week after his return, he posted a six-RBI effort and it appeared he would be back on track. However, Bellinger was back on the IL two weeks later after suffering a hamstring injury. He only required a minimum stay, and promptly hit two home runs and stole a base in his first five games back. Again, I thought he was back to his normal self, but the renaissance was short-lived. Bellinger would go just 4-for-46 over the next two weeks heading into the All-Star Break. I continued to rank him quite prominently in each edition of my rest of season rankings despite his struggles. I figured that he would be fully rested after the break, and the Dodgers started the second half with a series in Coors Field. The stars were aligned for Bellinger to have a big second half, or so I believed. Spoiler alert: I was wrong.
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Bellinger proceeded to go 5-for-48 out of the break, and once again tweaked his hamstring in the process. The Dodgers and manager Dave Roberts appear to have given up no the idea of Bellinger being an integral part of the offense. Roberts has sat Bellinger against the last two left-handed starters the club has faced. He has also stated that most of Bellinger’s playing time going forward will come against righties. Roberts also continues to drop Bellinger in the batting order when he is in the lineup. After hitting a season-low seventh in the order last Friday, Bellinger has hit eighth in his last two starts. The Dodgers might be the only team in baseball that has the luxury of using a former MVP in the eight-hole. But it speaks to how far Bellinger’s fantasy stock has fallen.
Even during his monster 2019 season, Bellinger fell off a bit after a scorching hot start. At the time, it seemed like natural regression. But his numbers got worse last season, and have been downright ugly this year. Over his last 159 games, Bellinger has hit just .223, albeit with 31 home runs and 87 RBI. It is clear that Bellinger is not going to reach the level of fantasy output that I had projected for him before the season, or even as recently as the All-Star Break. Having said that, I still am not giving up on him or cutting him anywhere. I may still have too much faith in the Dodgers slugger, but I think he can still be a fantasy asset over the final eight weeks of the season.
Domo Arigato, Mr. Joey Votto
While 26-year old Cody Bellinger looks like a broken-down version of his former self, 37-year old Joey Votto is seemingly turning back the hands of time. Votto looked to be dead in the water from a fantasy perspective in recent years. After hitting at least .314 with 29 home runs in three consecutive years from 2015 through 2017, Votto hit just 27 home runs combined over the next two seasons. He also hit just .272 in the process. In last year’s shortened season, Votto seemed to get his power stroke back, slugging 11 home runs in 54 games. However, it came at the expense of his once-prolific batting average. Votto hit just .226 in 186 at-bats last season. Things did not start much better for the veteran this year.
Votto was hitting an identical .226 with five home runs in 29 games to start the year before fracturing his thumb in May. After missing a month with the injury, Votto went 16-for-63 (.254) with three home runs in his next 18 games. Solid production, but nothing that moved the needle much from a fantasy perspective. However, over the last six weeks, Votto has looked like the Votto of old. That statement might be underselling it a bit. He has arguably put up the best six-week stretch of his illustrious career. In his last 34 games, Votto has batted .323 (40-for-124) with 15 home runs and 34 runs batted in. That includes a stretch of 12 homers and 26 RBI in his last 17 games. A quick peek at Votto’s metrics suggests that he has a legitimate claim as one of the game’s best sluggers this season.
Votto is unlikely to keep up his recent pace for the next eight days, much less the next eight weeks. But the Reds’ offense is humming right now. They have scored 78 runs while winning nine of their last 11 games. Two of Cincinnati’s best thumpers returned to the lineup this week following lengthy absences. Nick Castellanos and Mike Moustakas will provide Votto with some extra protection going forward. I have had Votto outside my top-200 overall for most of the year, but he currently sits inside my top-100 in this week’s rankings. If you had asked me four months ago or even four weeks ago if I would have Joey Votto ranked higher than Cody Bellinger in my rest of season rankings, I would have said you were crazy. But here we are. Keep riding the hot hand until the wheels fall off.
Rest of Season Fantasy Baseball Rankings
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