As the Pittsburgh Pirates prepared to begin the 2017 season, one of the most interesting players to keep an eye on was first baseman Josh Bell.

With Pittsburgh Pirates 1B Josh Bell, there are plenty of questions coming into his first full season in the big leagues.

Will Bell live up to the hype with the bat?

How will the late start and cold spring training effect Bell’s production?

And everyone’s favorite, will Bell be able to handle first base enough defensively to remain in the Pittsburgh Pirates lineup?

Bat outweighs the Glove. Simple As That.

In Monday’s opener, we got a look at what Bell can do both with the bat and the glove and while questions will persist all year, about Bell’s defensive ability, the Pittsburgh Pirates need to forget about the questions and just live with what Bell does in the field. He’s not going to be a gold glove first baseman any time soon, but with what he can give the team with his bat, the Pirates should be fine with the tradeoff.

In his brief look last season, Bell looks more comfortable than a guy like Pedro Alvarez did throughout an entire season. He seems to know what position he needs to be in and last year looked comfortable making the throw to second base on double plays.

In Monday’s game against the Boston Red Sox, Bell did nothing defensively that would cost a team a game. His toughest play, Bell couldn’t pick a short hop throw from Jordy Mercer, but that is a tough play for most first basemen.

The difference though is what Bell can do offensively to help the Pittsburgh Pirates lineup out.

His ninth inning opposite-field double off of Red Sox closer Crain Kimbrel looked effortless and there will be more positive things coming from Bell’s bat than negative things coming from his glove.

Other teams have done similar

Teams can get away with sacrificing some defense for offense.

Bell’s case isn’t a case like Alvarez where he is going to make 25-plus errors a season. Bell’s footwork is much better at first base and more importantly already seems to be able to mentally handle the switch

Guys like Mike Napoli, Jose Abreu, Ryan Howard, Chris Davis and Chris Carter all made double-digit errors at first base last season and in each case (maybe not Howard’s), their manager was willing to take the production from the bat over a handful of misplays.

When he was in Milwaukee, Prince Fielder wasn’t a great defensive first baseman, but it never stopped Ned Yost or other Brewers’ managers from penciling his name on the lineup card every night.

Bell will be fine. I would be more concerned if his bat starts to slump than if he makes a few errors. He will hurt the Pirates more by not hitting than making a few errors. He certainly still has a ways to go as a first baseman, but Bell is a good athlete and will at the minimum be an average to above average fielder.

As long as he hits, the Pittsburgh Pirates should take that and be happy.

The more he hits, Bell can hopefully make the talk about his defensive ability fade away.

Image Credit – Flickr Creative Commons

Matt Shetler

Matt is a life long Pirates fan with both a newspaper and radio background. Before coming to Pirates Breakdown he was most recently the co-owner and lead columnist for Pittsburgh Sporting News. He has been a credentialed writer for all four major sports and also has written for plenty of other sports and fantasy sports websites.

  • Carl Schwanbeck

    After watching game 2 and a lot of spring training, I am worried about josh bell being ready. I liked his approach last year. This spring he looked tardy regularly. He got some hits to LF but swing looked bad. In 2 Boston games, he has looked just overmatched by fastballs. even the 2B Monday looked bad- very late swing – not looking like he was letting the ball travel but rather just couldn’t catch up. I’d like to see him sent back already and give Jose Osuna the ABs. He looked like a hitter all spring. I know it was spring training but he LOOKS like a hitter and never looked overmatched. Anyone else see it the same way? Good luck to Josh as he seems like a guy you can root for.

  • redrage97

    as long as his bat comes around and is seeing five pitches an AB then he’ll be on first more often than not. For whatever reason he is having trouble picking up the ball.

    His glove is really bothersome. The worst part is other infielders get a lot of the errors on balls he should stop from getting to the wall like we say in game one. Mercer charged with an error that Bell should have caught (yeah it was a poor throw but an average first basemen would have stopped it). BUT his arm looks fair i don’t think we’ll see many throwing errors.. and his “feel” for the position looks better than last season when he looked like a puppy playing fetch on any ball hit on that side when he should’ve been covering.