Will Cubs capitalize on Bellinger's hot stretch?

July 17th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Jordan Bastian’s Cubs Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

CHICAGO -- is in the midst of a resurgent stretch right now, which is helping the Cubs on two fronts. On one hand, every hit and homer gives Chicago a chance to collect a much-needed win. At the same time, Bellinger is also helping his potential value on the trade market.

“I definitely know what is possible,” Bellinger said recently.

Cubs manager David Ross rightly referred to Bellinger as “the total package” after the center fielder launched a grand slam in Saturday's win against the Red Sox. In that same game, Bellinger chased down a deep fly in center field for an impressive catch, showing he is still providing plenty of value in both facets of the game.

That is why contending clubs in need of offensive punch could buzz the phone of Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer before the Aug. 1 Trade Deadline. Chicago is doing what it can to hang in the National League Central race, but Bellinger -- signed to a one-year, $17.5 million contract -- could be an intriguing rental piece that nets an impact prospect or two.

“I try to keep it simple,” Bellinger said. “A lot of that’s out of my control. What I can control is just showing up and playing. That’s what I try to do.”

Bellinger missed a portion of May and June due to a knee setback, but he has looked just fine in the field and on the basepaths of late. In 61 games overall, the 28-year-old is slashing .301/.358/.524 with 12 homers, 13 doubles, 35 RBIs and a 17.5% strikeout rate compared to an 8.2% walk rate. Defensively, Bellinger has four Outs Above Average, per FanGraphs.

Since returning from the injured list on June 15, Bellinger has hit at a .353 clip. One area he has excelled in has been doing damage against lefty pitching. Through Sunday, Bellinger had a .342/.415/.671 slash line in 82 plate appearances against left-handed pitchers.

“You’re looking at probably our best hitter versus lefties,” Ross said. “Going into the season, nobody’s betting on that. I think it allows me to do some fun stuff with the lineup. It negates some of the things I think other teams can do. They keep trying to match him up with those lefties and he continues to prove how good and how calm an at-bat he can have within that, in those moments.

“It’s extremely valuable. When you’ve won an MVP, they’ve thrown the best lefties at you in the best situations. So, the fact that he’s feeling good and putting up these numbers just reiterates what a good headspace and physical, mechanical space he’s in this year.”