Based on ZiPS projections, Josh Bell is expected to finish 2023 with the following stats:
141 G, 562 PA, 16 HR, 1 SB, 11.9% BB%, 20.5% K%, .249/.343/.399, 114 wRC+, 1.8 fWAR
Read what our writers think, then vote in the poll below and drop your own opinions in the comments and on the Covering the Corner Discord.
Merritt Rohlfing’s prediction: OVER
This is starting to feel repetitive — at least for the over/unders that I’ve written so far — but don’t all those projected numbers just seem a bit low? In particular, a sub-.400 slugging percentage for Josh Bell just doesn’t seem right for a guy who packs a career 41.9% hard-hit rate. That mark would have been third best on the Guards in 2022, behind only Josh Naylor (42.5% hard-hit rate, .452 SLG) and Franmil Reyes (47.2, .365). I guess that gives some sense of precedent, but one glance at contact rates tells us that Bell and Reyes are decidedly different players. That’s before we start talking about being able to work a walk.
In 2022, 14 first basemen logged at least 2.0 fWAR, including Bell who was right at that mark. An additional 11 guys hit that mark or better when playing primarily DH. So 25 players spread over the two positions that Bell will play in 2023 for Cleveland. What that split will look like depends on how they decide to use Naylor, but it’s still safe to say that Bell is going to get the 550-600 plate appearances that one would need to start climbing toward that 1.8 fWAR mark.
That’s the first key, and the second is that the black hole he fell into when moving from Washington to San Diego was just some sort of fluke. He still hit two wins, but infamously hit .192/.316/.271 over 210 PAs. If ever we’ve seen a refutation of lineup protection being a moot point, it’s that he was this bad despite being in the middle of one of the most talented lineups in the game. Plus the last we saw, he went 6-for-17 with a home run in the NLCS, maybe that was him getting back in the swing of things.
So no, I’m not inclined to believe he’ll be that terrible, any more than he’ll be the version he was for 437 PAs in Washington when he posted an .823 OPS. Taking a broader view, the .264/.355/.448 line he posted over 1215 plate appearances across 2021 and ‘22 is more in line with what I hope for. In all honesty, it’s basically what I want Naylor to put together too. Bell might be prone to being terrible every other year, but maybe he shook that off by being disastrously terrible for San Diego.
We’re talking about a guy with an elite eye who has cut his strikeout rate to a career-low 15.8% in 2022, and whose expected performance numbers (xBA and xwOBA) were both in the high 80th percentiles last season. He hits the ball hard, he sees it well, and he’s a switch-hitter. He’s not going to be the MVP of the team, but 1.8 wins? Child’s play.
Will Josh Bell finish with an fWAR over or under 1.8?
This poll is closed
Tomorrow’s player: Cal Quantrill