Arizona native Cody Bellinger wins NL Rookie of the Year for Dodgers

For the first time since they captured five consecutive National League Rookie of the Year awards from 1992-96, the Los Angeles Dodgers have won the top rookie award back-to-back. 

Monday, it was Cody Bellinger following in Corey Seager's footsteps, a core that figures to position the Dodgers at the top of the NL for years to come.

Bellinger, like Seager, captured the award in unanimous fashion, after slugging an NL rookie record 39 home runs - a feat he pulled off despite not making his major league debut until April 25. 

Now, he's the 18th Dodger to earn top rookie honors - a group that began with Jackie Robinson, the man for whom the rookie award is now named.

“It’s a huge honor," Bellinger said in a TV interview after earning the award. "Now that the season’s over, I’m really trying to reflect how crazy this season was. To top it off and be part of those big-name guys is really special." 

Bellinger received all 30 first-place votes - Kris Bryant and Seager make it three consecutive unanimous NL winners - to outpoint St. Louis shortstop Paul DeJong (56 total points) and Pittsburgh first baseman Josh Bell (32).

A fourth-round pick in 2013 and the son of former major league utilityman Clay Bellinger, the Dodgers first baseman reached 21 home runs in 51 games, faster than anyone to start a major league career. Bellinger reached the All-Star break with 25 home runs, and the Dodgers raced out to a 91-36 start. 

Both player and team saw their rolls slowed in August, when Bellinger suffered an ankle injury and the Dodgers began a skid of 16 losses in 17 games. 

Bellinger - and Seager, as well - returned from injury and the Dodgers steadied themselves, all the way to their first World Series since 1988. 

That's a feat never achieved by the Dodger quintet that owned the NL rookie award in the early '90s - Eric Karros, Mike Piazza, Raul Mondesi, Hideo Nomo and Todd Hollandsworth. 

That core began dismantling in 1998, when Piazza was traded away. The Dodgers need not worry about their new core for a while: Bellinger and Seager will be around through at least 2021.
Bellinger says the Dodgers' seven-game loss to the Houston Astros in the World Series was "pretty exhausting," although he doesn't anticipate a Dodgers hangover in 2018.

"The taste in everyone’s mouth after we lost was definitely sour," Bellinger said on a conference call. "Obviously the young guys are hungry, and those (more experienced) guys are hungry. It’s going to be a fun year." 

© 2017 USATODAY.COM


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