Quite a few players in Major League Baseball got off to slow starts, including Guardians infielder Josh Bell. The first two weeks were none too kind for the former NL All-Star, but Bell’s trending upward after a strong two weeks. Here’s a look at what Bell’s up to, and how the 30-year-old should be viewed in fantasy.
A Look at Bell
Guardians first baseman Josh Bell got off to a tough start in Cleveland. Just a couple of months removed from a difficult two plus month run in San Diego, Bell started the season on a 3-38 (.079) with no extra base hits between Opening Day and April 10. Just four players — Brandon Belt, Jack Suwinski, Marcell Ozuna, and Nick Gordon — owned lower batting averages in that stretch than the man who did win a NL Silver Slugger last season.
There are some reasonable explanations for the slow start from Bell. While the 30-year-old unsurprisingly owned an impressive 13.6% BB% rate as of April 23, Bell’s batted ball metrics were less-than-stellar. The Guardians infielder has seen his GB% and Topped% rates jump in the early portion of the year. While he’s been hitting the ball hard, Bell is at his best when driving the ball and not rolling over on it. Not to mention, Bell’s K%, Chase%, and Whiff% rates have all went in the wrong direction.
The good news for fantasy owners is that Bell seems to be rounding back into form. The 30-year-old crushed his former team in Washington, as he went 6-13 with five extra base hits (one HR) and three runs batted in from April 14-16. He’s since recorded a hit in every game since then sans one, including a three-hit day on April 23 against the Marlins. From April 10-23, Bell’s hitting .341 with eight runs batted in and two homers.
While Bell’s average sat at just .079 after play on April 10, he’s now up to .228 after what’s been a strong two weeks for the veteran first baseman.
What it Means
We thought very highly of Bell’s chances in fantasy this year, to the point where we did rate him as a top-10 first baseman entering 2023. The first few weeks were not ideal, but the former All-Star has done a much better job of making hard, elevated contact and looks more like the hitter that was with the Nationals in 2022 than the Padres version of Bell.
Bell isn’t the only Guardian who’s gotten off to a sluggish start. Outfielder Steven Kwan hit .298 in 2022, but his average is down to .244 over the first month of the year. Oscar Gonzalez has struggled as well, as has Josh Naylor. Both Gonzalez and Naylor sport sub-.200 batting averages, which has put the onus of the pressure on Jose Ramirez and Bell.
Ramirez has been up to the task, and Bell’s finding his way out of an early season slump. With Bell seemingly entrenched in the cleanup spot, expect him to get plenty of RBI opportunities as the year goes on — especially if he’s hitting in front of the likes of Kwan and Ramirez. Start Bell whenever possible.