The Washington Nationals got the power bat they craved when they landed Josh Bell in a trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates. They also got a guy who can rake with runners on.
Needing an upgrade in the power department, the Washington Nationals went out and acquired slugging first baseman Josh Bell. Yes, Bell will smack several home runs and be a great addition to the team’s overall tater totals, but he can also handle the bat with runners in scoring position as well.
The Nationals hit 66 home runs in 2020, better than only nine other teams. There was no secret as the team entered free agency, they needed to sign a hitter with a solid home run hitting track record.
They got their man in Josh Bell. In his All-Star 2019 season, Bell hit 37 home runs. Two years prior he hit 26 long balls. The power numbers were down in the pandemic shortened season, but the ability to hit for power is there.
Aside from the home run numbers is the ability to hit with runners on base. For his career, Bell is a .293 hitter with an OPS of .958 with runners in scoring position. In comparison to some other Nationals players, Juan Soto is a .272 hitter with a .926 OPS. Starlin Castro hits .273 with an OPS of .713 with RISP. The man who could be brought in to backup Bell, Ryan Zimmerman, hits .269 with an OPS of .813. While Trea Turner has a slightly better batting average with RISP at .301, his OPS is .50 less.
The player Bell is replacing at first base, Eric Thames, is a .203 career hitter with RISP with an OPS less than .700.
Even though Bell struggled in 2020, hitting only .226 (.184 with RISP), he has a history of getting the job done when runners are on base.
There has been a lot of talk about where Trea Turner should bat in the lineup. Where Juan Soto should hit? One certainty in the matter is, if runners get on ahead of Josh Bell he’s going to move them around.
With plenty of options at the top of the order, the Nationals can be comfortable slotting different players different positions. Scoring runs should not be a problem for the 2021 Nationals.