Bell’s second stint in Pittsburgh is finally underway, and the Pirates will need him to produce to stay in the wild card race.
“We brought Josh up to play a decent amount,” GM Neal Huntington said Sunday. “We do anticipate he’ll get some at-bats at first base as we go forward.”
That should be music to the ears of Pirates fans. First base has been a black hole for the Pirates in recent years. The platoon of Ike Davis and Gaby Sanchez combined for 0.1 fWAR in 2014. Pedro Alvarez and John Jaso have been below replacement levels the last two years (-0.2 each).
Bell looks like the first baseman of the future, and as of Aug. 21, 2016, the future is now.
There was some good and there was some bad from Bell in his first big league start. His sacrifice fly was a well hit ball the other way. His base hit went to the opposite field too.
He made a nice grab to bring in Vogelsong’s wild throw in the first, probably saving a base and an eventual run.
While he was thrown out trying to extend a single into a double in the sixth, it was a decent read, and it is hard to fault him for trying to get something started with two outs against a tiring starter.
“It was awesome (starting),” Bell said. “Very similar to AAA. Just trying to get my feet wet.”
However, his game is obviously still rough. That should not be surprise for anyone who makes the jump from AAA, but it is worth worrying about a bit. He said that he should make the pick on a throw like Sean Rodriguez’s error in the fifth nine times out of 10. His at-bat against Rodney was not pretty.
But he needs to be here. Why? Clint Hurdle summed it perfectly Saturday: “It is the most dynamic move we can have to help our club.”
He has the potential to be one of the most talented players the Pirates’ farm system has produced in the past 25 years. He also is just a rookie. He was not even hitting that well since his demotion back to AAA, batting just .211 with a .587 OPS and one home run.
Triple-A slash lines should be taken with a grain of salt, but it is fair to assume he is here in part because of necessity rather than just performance.
With Kang down (and not producing before his trip to the DL), the Pirates are down to just David Freese for reliable for reliable corner infielders. Sean Rodriguez and Jaso can make spot starts, but Jaso has not been reliable enough to be an everyday player and Rodriguez’s versatility is needed off the bench.
For the 2016 Pirates, it may be Bell or bust. He needs to be starting, even if there are growing pains.