The Pittsburgh Pirates enjoyed a huge win last night over the Cardinals. Josh Bell was the key player in the game, hitting his first career walk-off home run. Let’s do some analysis on his stats so far.
Back in 2011, the Pittsburgh Pirates invested a second round draft pick in a Texas high school outfielder by the name of Josh Bell. Bell was a consensus top 15 pick in the draft, but due to a hard commitment to the University of Texas, he fell in the second round. A record setting bonus of $5 million, Josh Bell became a big part of the Pittsburgh Pirates organization.
Bell was highly touted coming up through the minor leagues for his bat. With so much perceived depth at the outfield position, the Pittsburgh Pirates decided to transition Bell to first base during his 2014 Fall League stint. This move was important, as this opened up the path to the big leagues for the power hitting prospect. Finally, Josh Bell made his big league debut in 2016, and since he has been one of the best power hitters on the team.
This season, Josh Bell was given the opening day job at first base, which was expected after last season. Bell started off the year slow, and many were already questioning if he was going to be the answer at first base. Furthermore, even some fans were ready to send him down to the minor leagues after hitting under .200 through the first two weeks. Bell ended the month of April on a positive note. He finished with a slash line of .257/.358/.457 and four home runs.
The month of May was even rockier for the rookie. Bell had a slash line of .198/.265/.415 with five home runs. Bell also struck out 25 times in his 106 at bats. The biggest issue for Bell in this month was he was finally playing every day, and he was playing full games instead of being yanked for defense late. In the month of April, Bell was getting the majority of starts, but often sat against left handed pitching. This would lead him to miss an at-bat or two per game. What did not help was that John Jaso also struggled through April, but Clint Hurdle finally decided to give Bell more of a full-time opportunity. This was a big adjustment for the rookie, but since May he has played much closer to his expectation.
June & July
Since taking over as the legitimate every day first baseman, Josh Bell has been a key in the middle of the Bucs offense. Although he only batted .250 in June, he got on base at a solid clip of .339 and slugged a really strong .522. He belted six home runs, two doubles, and three triples. He also cut his strikes outs down to 19. July has been even better so far. Aside from his big walk off home run, Bell has had his best month yet. So far he has a slash line of .333/.429/.639. He also already has two home runs, three doubles, and one triple. He also has played well in the field so far, posting a -0.6 UZR/150, putting him at about league average, and he has 3 defensive runs saved.
Final Thoughts on Bell
All in all, Bell had a bit of a sluggish start to his season. However, he has made strides over the last two months, and he is starting to show why he was so highly touted. One area that Bell needs to improve on is his strikeout rate. Through the minors he was noted for his plate discipline. So far on the 2017 season, he is striking out about 18 percent of the time. Sometimes it seems like he is being too patient and ends up taking a bad swing because he is waiting too long. If Bell can continue to improve his strikeout rate, it will only help his numbers continue to grow in the positive direction they are already going in.
*Finally, all numbers are from FanGraphs