Cody Bellinger isn't the top free agent available this winter, but he's the most interesting.

There's never been a case like that of the 2019 National League MVP winner, who has been plagued by injury and poor performance since then. And yet, after the Los Angeles Dodgers non-tendered him last month, he's hitting the open market at age 27 with that intriguing 2019 stat line: 47 homers, a .305/.406/.629 slash line, and a 161 wRC+.

Few players have enjoyed a start to a career like Bellinger has. Among all hitters since 1900, he ranks 30th on FanGraphs in total WAR accumulated from his age 21 through age 23 seasons (15.1).

The 29 players ahead of him are generally exceptional, and most are Hall of Famers. Getting off to a great start at a young age foreshadows a long and fruitful career.

Among those 29 players, only one produced less WAR during their age 24-26 seasons than Bellinger's 2.1 mark: Ted Williams, who missed those three prime seasons serving in World War 2.

With that exception, Bellinger had the worst age 24-26 follow-up. No one has ever reached an exceptional level early and then fallen like he has. The next worst age 24-26 performance among that cohort came from Shoeless Joe Jackson, whose WAR output fell 46% (to 14.0 from 26.0). The decline hastened his trade from Cleveland to the White Sox in his age 25 season.

Bellinger's next three seasons saw his cumulative WAR drop by 86%. His numbers suffered because of the shortened season in 2020, but then he hit just .165 in 2021 after injuring his shoulder in the 2020 postseason, which required surgery. And while he improved somewhat in 2022, he still slashed a paltry .210/.265/.389, producing an 83 wRC+ (100 is the league average for the wRC+ scale).