MLB Rumors: Dylan Cease trade sleeper, Cardinals spending big, Yankees balking Bellinger

  • An NL Central team floated as Dylan Cease landing spot
  • Cardinals are still aiming for a big-name starting pitcher
  • Yankees concerned with one aspect of Cody Bellinger's game

Sep 17, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Dylan Cease (84) delivers a
Sep 17, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Dylan Cease (84) delivers a / Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
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MLB Rumors: Yankees reportedly concerned about Cody Bellinger's hard-hit rate

The New York Yankees don't appear to be making the massive changes that fans expected them to after they missed out on the playoffs for the first time since 2016. What has been known, despite Brian Cashman and Hal Steinbrenner defending their operation, is that the team is interested in a variety of free agents, some of them the top names available. One name they have frequently been linked to is Chicago Cubs outfielder Cody Bellinger.

New York needs two outfielders, which Cashman stressed amid his rant to reporters at the General Manager Meetings. Bellinger would slot in center field. Another plus is that Bellinger bats left-handed, something the Yankees need. But as it turns out, the Yankees are seemingly concerned over one area of his game.

According to Jon Heyman of the New York Post, the Yankees are concerned about Bellinger's hard-hit rate. Here is what Heyman writes in a recent column.

"The Yankees like free agent Cody Bellinger, but some Yankees people are worried about his hard-hit rate even after his brilliant season," writes Heyman. "He seems like the perfect fit as an excellent center fielder who bats lefthanded and hit .306 after a couple rough injury years. But some analytics apparently work against him (my thought: hard-hit rate favors guys who whiff, aka Joey Gallo, not Bellinger, who hit .279 with two strikes by putting the ball in play)."

Hard-hit rate, per MLB.com, is "the percentage of batted balls that were hit at 95 mph or more." The league website says that a batter will have better production after hitting over 95 mph.

This past season, Bellinger ranks in the 10th percentile in hard-hit rate with a 31.4 rating, per Baseball Savant. Bellinger's average exit velocity was 87.9, ranking in the 22nd percentile.

The Yankees' analytics department has been heavily ridiculed, especially this season. Superstar outfielder Aaron Judge said of the department that it's possible the Yankees are looking at the wrong numbers. Could prioritizing hard hit rate be one of them? Who's to say. But Heyman does point out in the quote above that hard hit rate favors a player like Joey Gallo who notably flopped in less than two years with the Yankees, where he batted below .200.

Even with Bellinger's low hard-hit rate, he was a very productive batter for the Cubs. The outfielder recorded a .307 batting average, a .356 on-base percentage, a .525 slugging percentage, 26 home runs, 95 runs, 97 RBI, 153 hits, 87 strikeouts, and 40 walks in 499 at-bats.

Will the Yankees overthink things and pass on probably the best centerfield option available this offseason? We'll have to find out.