Jamie Gatlin | May 21st, 2019
When Josh Bell first made his MLB debut three years ago, the expectations were sky high. Bell was supposed to anchor the Pirates lineup for years to come and contributed right away. After hitting a career-high twenty-six home runs in 2017 Bell only hit twelve last year. He was inconsistent at times and failed to be the Pirates power threat on a team in dire need. In the second half, however, Bell improved providing hope for the future. He has carried that success into 2019 in dominating fashion. His start is even more impressive considering the adversity this team has already faced.
As the Pirates have battled injuries, Bell has carried the offense. Through forty-four games, the twenty-six-year-old has fourteen home runs, and forty-four runs batted in. While his power has been impressive, he is also second on the Pirates with a .340 average. Bell leads the Pirates in virtually every offensive category except for stolen bases. He is becoming one of the leagues best hitters and finally living up to his lofty expectations. While Bell’s power has been a welcoming sign, he has turned into a dynamic hitter.
Entering play on Tuesday Bell has fifty-five hits. Although he has made a name for himself with towering home runs he has been an on-base machine. He leads the league in extra base hits but also has an OBP of .404. A year after being labeled a one- year wonder he is becoming one of the most feared hitters in the National League.
Additionally, Bell has joined some exclusive company during his torrid stretch. The Pirates first baseman has three multi-home run games this month including one on Saturday. In doing so he became just the second Pirates switch hitter to have three in a season joining Bobby Bonilla who accomplished the feat in 1990. He also is the first Pirates player since Brian Giles to record three multi-home run games in a month.
His historic start can be linked to a change in his batting approach. Furthermore, Bells stance has gone from extremely open to closed and more upright. By eliminating pre-pitch movement, he has been able to focus on pitches coming his way. As a result, his groundball rate has decreased. Bell also is not wasting his swings and being less passive in the batter’s box. This has allowed him to put the barrel on the ball as his exit velocity is at an all-time high. The former top prospect is not only on the best run of his career but of anyone to wear a Pirates uniform in recent memory.
Although there is still a lot of baseball to be played, Bell is proving critics wrong. He should pass his RBI total from last year as he has not shown any signs of slowing down. Last week the Pirates first basemen finally gained national attention as he was named the National League player of the week. It was the first time that a Pirates position player won the award since Andrew McCutchen in 2017. If Bell can continue his hot start, then it may not be the only award he takes home this year.
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