First baseman Josh Bell
Okay, so, who’s on first will not be a question for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2019. It will be the switch-hitting Josh Bell. The question, however, is what will the team get from Bell?
The former top prospect debuted in 2016 with a more on-base centered approached. While he got on base at a .368 clip, he hit just three home runs and slugged .406 on his way to a .339 wOBA and a 112 wRC+.
During the 2017 campaign the power that Bell was lauded for throughout his minor league career flashed. He mashed 27 home runs which set a National League record for home runs by a rookie switch-hitter. He saw his slugging jump to .466 and his ISO to .211, however, his walk rate dropped from 13.8% to 10.6% and his strikeout rate rose 5% on his way to posting a .334 OBP, .338 wOBA, and a wRC+ of 108.
After a miserable start to his 2018 season, Bell finished with four strong months. From June 1st through the end of the season Bell slashed .267/.378/.422 to go with a 15.3% walk rate, .155 ISO, .350 wOBA, and wRC+ of 122. A strong argument can be made that Bell was the team’s best hitter in the final four months of the 2018 season.
When the dusted settled on his 2018 season, his walk rate rose back up to 13.2% leading to his OBP jumping to .357. His ISO (.150) and slugging percentage (.411) were both lower than 2017 but higher than 2016. Meanwhile, his 112 wRC+ tied his career best from 2016. He hit just 12 home runs, however.
So, what Bell will the Pirates get in 2019? Hopefully, it’s the Bell they saw during the final four months of 2018. This is Bell at his best, and the team needs him to be at his best if they’re going to compete for a postseason berth in 2019.