By Jason Shetler
Anyone who is over the age of 25 is probably familiar with the song title “Ironic” by Alanis Morissette. Arguably her greatest hit, the song reflects different situations that wind up being the opposite of what was to be expected. For Josh Bell so far this season, that has certainly been the case.
After being drafted by the Pirates as an outfielder in 2011, Bell made the transition to first base, which began during the 2014 Arizona Fall League. As expected, Bell had some major struggles at the position in 2015 with the Altoona Curve and the Indianapolis Indians.
Prior to last season, the Pirates brought in John Jaso and David Freese to serve as a stopgap platoon at first base, with Bell waiting in the wings. In the second half of the year, Bell got most of the playing time as the Bucs first baseman. Offensively, he really held his own, posting an on base percentage of .368, which was seventh best among MLB rookies, along with an outstanding 13.8% walk rate. The defensive side was a different story for him, as he posted a -32.8 UZR/150 and a dWAR of -1.0.
With Jung-Ho Kang not being able to join the team, David Freese entered 2017 as the third baseman. This meant that Bell would be the everyday first baseman, with no platoon. The power has been on display for Bell in the early part of the season, putting up a .436 slugging percentage against right-handers and an even better .469 slugging versus southpaws. He currently has a team leading six home runs, three from each side of the plate. During Friday’s game in Arizona, Bell hit a mammoth homer off lefty Patrick Corbin that was measured at 432 feet. Statcast has his Exit Velocity this year at 88.7 mph, which is better than the 87.8 MLB average. The defense for Bell has been a pleasant surprise, with a 1.8 UZR/150 and just one error in 226 chances. While the Pirates offense has been anemic, Bell has done well overall. It’s like the questions about his power and defensive play have completely disappeared – And isn’t it ironic…..Don’t ya think?