Pittsburgh Pirates 2018 Preview: Josh Bell

Our 40 in 40 series, which takes a look at each player on the 40 man roster for the Pittsburgh Pirates, continues today with one of the team’s best offensive weapons, Josh Bell.

Any hopes of the Pittsburgh Pirates having at least a little bit of success in 2018 relies heavily on the production of first baseman Josh Bell.

A former second round draft pick, Bell enters his second full season in the major leagues and will look to live up to high expectations after an impressive rookie campaign in 2017.

With the regular season less than a month away, let’s take a look at what the Pirates can expect from Bell in 2018:

Sophomore Slump?

Despite being a rookie in 2017, it wasn’t Bell’s first taste of major league action.

He made a nice first impression after a late call up in 2016, hitting .273/.368/.406 with three home runs and 19 RBIs in 45 games. His plate discipline impressed those who had the pleasure of watching him at the dish as he walked 21 times and struck out 19 in over 100 plate appearances.

The 25-year-old continued his offensive production last season as a rookie, batting .255/.334/.466 with 26 home runs and 90 RBIs in 159 games. He set a national league record for most home runs by a switch hitting rookie and ranked among the top rookies in most offensive categories.

He capped off his season as a nominee for the National League Rookie of the Year award, finishing third behind St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Paul DeJong and Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Cody Bellinger, who earned the honor.

Heading into this season, the one thing on everyone’s mind is whether Bell will suffer from the dreaded “sophomore slump.”

Any player, rookie or veteran, will have his fair share of struggles throughout the course of a grueling 162-game season. Bell will be no different. He will have a cold streak here and there, but if last year was any indication of what he can do in the Pirates lineup, he will still manage to produce at a high level.

Bell has received a ton of experience over the last two seasons, and will likely benefit from that this year. He will also benefit from hitting in the heart of the Pirates order with a little bit of protection around him.

With guys like Starling Marte, Gregory Polanco and Corey Dickerson also expected to serve as impact players in the lineup, Bell will have his opportunities to be a run producer for the Bucs.

With that opportunity, Bell could be primed for yet another stellar offensive campaign. And no “sophomore slump” is going to stop him from doing so.

Back to first

The Pirates difficulty in finding an everyday first baseman has been heavily documented over the years. They’ve had plenty of players get time at the position including the likes of John Jaso, Gaby Sanchez, Ike Davis, Garrett Jones and Pedro Alvarez to name a few. However, none of them were the right fit.

The Pirates have finally found their man in Bell, who returns to his position at first base this season. A former outfielder, Bell has had his ups and downs transitioning to the infield. He made 30 errors in 212 games at first in the minor leagues, but has improved throughout the last few years.

He can still be shaky over there at times – he committed 10 errors last season – but he has shown that he is capable of getting the job done. And he is far better defensively than some of the others that have manned the position for the Pirates in the past.

Final thoughts

It may be safe to say that Bell might step in as the new face of the Pirates franchise this season.

With the departure of Andrew McCutchen, who served as the franchise’s top star for nearly a decade, Bell likely fits into the role as the organization’s top offensive star.

When people used to think of the Pirates, McCutchen’s name instantly came to mind. The outfielder was an icon of sorts in Pittsburgh and helped bring winning baseball back to the city.

While Bell will certainly not reach the level of super stardom that McCutchen reached, he is a likable player that has lived up to his potential so far. And when you look at the Pirates lineup, he is the one hitter that pitchers will likely fear pitching to.

The former top prospect will have to once again prove himself and live up to the hype this season, but with McCutchen now moving on to San Francisco, it’s time for a new era in Pirates baseball and it all may start with Bell.

Jose Negron

Jose Negron is a 22 year old journalist from the North Huntingdon area. A recent graduate of California University of Pennsylvania, Jose has written for Rumbunter and Pirates Breakdown for the past year. He is the former Editor in Chief and Sports Editor of Cal U's campus newspaper, the Cal Times. He also covers high school sports for the Mon Valley Independent and serves as a contributor for Pittsburgh Sporting News, covering the Pirates. During the summer of 2015, he also interned with TribLive Radio, writing for their online blog, helping in the production of various radio shows and even appearing on the air.