If the Pirates are going to legitimately contend for the National League Central crown or a Wild Card spot in 2019, they're going to need more production from their lineup. Last year, Pittsburgh ranked ninth in the NL in runs scored per game (4.3) and sixth in park and league-adjusted offense (at two percent below the overall MLB average). GM Neal Huntington and company didn't go big-game hunting on the free agent or trade market for a slugger, so the team is relying upon internal improvements to plate more runs this season. And perhaps no player has more pressure on him to raise his offensive game than first baseman Josh Bell.
The Pirates persuaded the hulking switch-hitter to turn pro back in 2011 with a $5-million signing bonus, and Bell routinely graced top prospect lists while charging towards Pittsburgh. He delivered right away, too, setting a new rookie home run record for an NL switch-hitter in 2017 (26). Last year, however, his homer total plummeted to 12. What does Bell need to do to regain his power stroke? And, just as importantly, does he actually need to be a full-fledged slugger to be effective?