Whether or not you are familiar with the name, Josh Bell is poised to be an incredibly serviceable first baseman for years to come. He’s a combination of power and timely hitting with the plate vision of a 10 year veteran wrapped up in the body of a 24 year old.
Few players in the league, regardless of age, have the plate vision that Bell possesses. Through 152 plate appearances in his first stint in the major leagues last year, Bell only struck out 19 times.
He walked 21 times.
Players that have the ability to walk more than they strike out are rare. Think Albert Pujols and Ben Zobrist. Bell’s sample size in the majors may have been small, but that doesn’t make it any less impressive. His 12.5% k rate and 13.8% BB rate aren’t all that far off of his career numbers in the minor leagues. His minor league numbers before his call-up were a solid 11.8% BB rate and 15.3% K rate.
Although he may not have the most prolific HR hitting numbers, Bell’s power is real. Probably my favorite moment of the 2016 season came last July when, in his second at bat, Bell hit a MONSTER grand slam against the Chicago Cubs.
I instantly started trying to figure out when this kid could get the opportunity to become the every day first baseman.
The hard part for Bell has been his defense. After starting his career as an outfielder, Bell was moved to first base to try and fast track his path to the majors. It worked. Only a year later and Bell is in line to be the Pirates starting first baseman on opening day.
— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) March 8, 2017
What This Means For Fantasy Baseball:
If I gave off the impression that this was one of those “Oh wow, this kid is so good, draft him NOW and dont miss out!” posts, you are mistaken. Sorry if i mislead you.
To be realistic, I would actually fit Bell in to the 16-20 range for first baseman. That doesn’t mean he doesnt have top-15 upside though. Especially in a points league. Bell’s lack of K’s will limit vastly the number of negative points your team takes, plus his fairly high walk rate will help add a few extra points throughout the week.
In a good year, Bell figures to have 20-25 HR power with the ability to knock in 80 or so runs depending on what kind of team the Pirates keep around him. His solid career AVG / BABIP numbers suggest that his average actually has the ability to sit around the .300 range on a consistent basis.
The plans for Bell, fantasy wise, should be simple. Depending on what kind of league you are in, I would pass on him as my starting 1B. But, he could potentially make an intriguiging 1B/3B or Utility option. He is a guy that will contribute consistently in at least 4 catergories and in a points league will hover right around the 4 points per game average.
Whether you like Bell or not, keep him on your fantasy radar. He’s a big man with big potential