Watching center fielder Andrew McCutchen roam the outfield for the last ten seasons has been a pleasure for fans who have suffered through a lot of mediocrity. Those same fans will be very excited to watch first baseman Josh Bell grow into the Pittsburgh Pirates cornerstone player of the future.
Josh Bell: The Future of The Pittsburgh Pirates
Bell has been a heralded prospect since he was drafted in the second round by Pittsburgh in 2011. He has been one of the few players the Pirates have developed within their own system who has come up and found success at the major league level. They thought so highly of Bell that he was given a $5 million signing bonus, a record for a player not drafted in round one. It is believed by some that Bell’s lofty signing bonus started the bonus pools that restricted teams from giving players astronomical amounts of money to forego their college eligibility.
He’s proven himself worth the money. Bell has been a breath of fresh air for the Pirates.
Starting Off with a Bang
Josh Bell made his MLB debut on July 8, 2016, as a pinch-hitter. The next night, he hit a grand slam in only his second career at-bat. Ever since, he has been as effective as any fan could’ve hoped.
Bell is a career .265 hitter and has launched 24 home runs. Last season, in his 45 games, Bell only hit three home runs. This had some fans worried, as Bell was always seen as a power threat that the Pirates had sorely lacked. This season, he has 21 home runs in 123 games, and he is hitting for enough average to be a perfect cleanup hitter in manager Clint Hurdle‘s lineup.
“JB”, as the name read on his Williamsport jersey Sunday night, has posted numbers good enough to be considered as the National League Rookie of the Year. Cody Bellinger, the heralded Dodgers outfield prospect, has been the only thing that is keeping Bell from getting potential recognition for the award.
Bell spent all of last season and about the first quarter of the 2017 season being subbed out late in ballgames for a defensive replacement. He is a natural outfielder, but due to a crowded outfield containing McCutchen, Starling Marte, and Gregory Polanco, Bell would’ve been blocked at the big league level.
The Pirates are finally seeing some of the pieces that general manager Neal Huntington has been promising for years would make the major leagues. With a couple more on the way, Bell is only the leader of that pack and a good candidate to be the face of the Pirates future.