Team MVP- Josh Bell
While the case for Starling Marte to be the team’s MVP is strong – his five wins above replacement in 2016 and 2017 were the most of any Pirate in that span – it is time for the young guys to really step up their game and take over.
Last season the Pirates rookie first baseman hit .255/.334/.466, not bad but nothing spectacular either. In 2016 when Bell first appeared in a Pirates uniform, the switch hitting Texan hit .273/.368/.406, and was more patient than aggressive as he walked 13.8 percent of the time to striking out 12.5 percent of the time.
This past season, though, Bell sold out for power, and he still walked and struck out at rates better than that of the league average. This season, I suspect he will be able to combine those two approaches to the point where he overtakes Marte for the best hitter on the squad.
Combining the patience and contact approach with the power can push Bell to become a Brandon Belt type offensive player. For his career, Belt has produced a .268/.358/.461 slash and a 128 wRC+, and he has really been one of the most underrated players in the game over the last handful of years.
While Bell’s offensive numbers will hopefully mirror those of Belt’s, his ever improving defense likely will not. Belt’s offense and defensive contributions make him a consistent four win player, and while I envision Bell’s offense will improve to that range, his defensive ability likely means he will be more of a three win player.
Bell’s got the tools to carry the offense, and in 2018 that’s what should be expected, especially with him in the cleanup spot. Josh Bell will be the Pirates 2018 most valuable player.