With the Pittsburgh Pirates offseason firmly upon us, I figured it might a good time to start a weekly series for myself to work on through the Fall and into the Winter.
If you read my intro to the Bucs Dugout site back in July, you’ll remember that I’m a big fantasy baseball fan, which makes me a bit of a numbers/projections guy at times. I still use the eye test plenty to help me find players I like, and there’s nothing quite like enjoying a Pirates baseball game with the emotional interest of a lifelong fan, but I love the statisical, fantasy side of the game as well.
With that in mind, I thought it might be a worthwhile project to start projecting what key Pirates players will need to do in 2020 if the Bucs are going to shock the league and end up in the playoffs come October. I know, I know, it’s a stretch based on the season we all just witnessed. But with a new manager and staff coming soon, I figured it’s a good time for some optimism.
Each week I’ll pick a player and go through what their 2020 season might look like under the assumption that they’re able to help lead the black and gold to their first playoff appearance since 2015. Let’s go Bucs!
Let’s start with one of the most important pieces of this 2020 roster. First time all-star Josh Bell is an extremely pivotal piece to this team for one major reason: The potential power in his bat.
The Pirates have been lacking in the home run department for as long as I can remember, and the last time they had a 35+ homer player was Pedro Alvarez in 2013. Despite Bell’s power binge, the Bucs were still 27th in the league in dingers. They were 25th in 2018 and 29th in 2017. Yeah, not good.
Clearly Pittsburgh will need another reliable power bat or two if they’re going to make a magical playoff run in 2020, but Bell will have to be the Pirates’ catalyst in the MLB’s continuously growing home run atmosphere.
In addition to his improvement in power production last year, another excellent facet of his game is his consistency. In Bell’s three full seasons in Pittsburgh, his 143 last year was his lowest count of games played thus far. So, when looking at projections, we can pretty safely project JB for 150 games barring a DL stint.
While his batting profile during his hot two-month stretch in 2019 was utterly impressive, the second half of the season told us we probably shouldn’t expect a .300 average from the big first baseman moving forward. After all, a .400 BABIP in the month of May will do wonders for a player’s first half batting average.
Even still, I have no doubt that Bell will study that rough stretch from July through August to figure out how to avoid those empty at-bats at all costs. His on-base skills will help buoy his batting average too. All-in-all, I don’t think his 2019 average of .277 is his ceiling. A .241 BABIP in the second half seems like too much of an overcorrection the other way for a guy who can truly hit with pop to all fields from both sides of the plate.
Without further ado, let’s try to put some numbers on the 2020 Josh Bell. Remember, this is optimisitic, as we’re hoping these numbers carry Pittsburgh to a surprising playoff appearance. We’re also assuming relatively good health. I’ve factored in a few extra rest days and maybe a two-game absence for a minor ailment as well. Let’s give it a shot.
Josh Bell 2020:
150 games played
625 plate appearances
.285 BA with a .370 OBP
34 home runs, 98 runs, and 109 RBI
What do YOU think? Give me some over, under, or just rights down in the comments below. I’m also always happy to hear your thoughts on more in-depth statistics like BABIP, HR/FB, WAR, and more. Hope you’re all having a good offseason so far, and I’ll be back next week to tackle another Bucco stat line for 2020. Until then, Let’s go Bucs!