Long considered a hit over power first baseman, Josh Bell uprooted that narrative last season with 26 long balls and just a .255 average. He finished with a .211 ISO, which ranked 52nd among qualified hitters, with 11 of his home runs coming at PNC in a bottom-eight park for homers. However, his flyball rate was just over 30 percent while his HR/FB was inflated at 19.1 percent; it's hard to bet on him repeating that level of power production next season. Further, while Bell made consistent contact, walked at an above-average rate and his BABIP was depressed, his xBA was identical to his actual batting average, so it's not a given that he gets a lot back in that department in 2018. There may very well be another level or two to his game, but it's unwise to assume he puts it all together and vaults into top-75 territory right away this season. It's better to instead keep expectations modest -- another $10-plus season in 15-team leagues -- with anything beyond that being a bonus.
Bell will start Sunday against Washington, even though the Nationals are starting southpaw Gio Gonzalez. The Pirates have held Bell back against some left-handed pitching -- he's slashing .232/.292/.448 in 137 plate appearances against those hurlers -- but he needs just one homer to break the franchise rookie record of 26. After a September slump, Bell has six hits (including two home runs) in his last 18 at-bats.
Bell went 1-for-4 with a two-run home run during Thursday's loss to Washington. Bell's second homer in as many outings tied the game in the top of the ninth inning and brought him up to 26 for the season. Thursday's blast ties Bell with Jason Bay for the organization's rookie home-run record. The 25-year-old first baseman has posted a respectable .256/.333/.471 slash line with 89 RBI and 73 runs to go along with the round trippers, and he projects to be a key cog in the Pittsburgh lineup for years to come.
Bell went 3-for-4 with a home run and three RBI in Wednesday's 5-3 win over the Orioles. He now has 25 homers on the year, leaving Bell one shy of Jason Bay's franchise rookie record. The young switch hitter has faded a bit down the stretch in his first full big-league campaign, but he'll still head into 2018 as a key piece of the Pirates' offense.
Bell, who went hitless in three at-bats Sunday, is slashing .138/.219/.155 in his last 64 plate appearances. He's driven in just one run despite batting fourth or fifth in all 17 games. The Pirates as a whole have struggled to produce offense in September, and Bell may simply be running out of steam in his first full MLB season. Despite the slump, the 25-year-old ranks second on the team with 595 plate appearances and a .787 OPS.
Bell is not in the lineup for Sunday's game against the Cardinals. Bell is hitting just .178 this month and hasn't collected a multi-hit game since Sept. 8. Manager Clint Hurdle will give the struggling 25-year-old the day off, with Jose Osuna taking over at first base and batting cleanup in his stead.