For the last couple of seasons playing with the Pittsburgh Pirates and now Washington Nationals, questions about our MLBbro, Josh Bell’s future always dogged him. The narratives of what he wanted in his career and the priorities of the team he was with drew headlines just as much as his power at the plate.
Bell was the star of a Pirates team that seemingly couldn’t get out of the rebuilding stage which brought questions of Josh’s willingness to be a long-term participant. On the other side of the equation, would the team try to avoid the financial responsibility and make a deal for future prospects which the organization is known for?
When the latter happened and Bell moved on to the Nationals, his first season was decidedly up and down to say the least. A serious bout with COVID-19 and a slump through mid-May frustrated our MLBbro with constant strikeouts and double-play grounders.
But his final numbers of 27 homers, 88 RBI with an .823 on-base-slugging percentage reflected a dominant second half of the season. But despite his strong finish, the same questions of Josh Bell possibly being moved persist. A situation that Josh discussed during spring break via the Washington Post…
“I feel like I’ve been traded, I’ve been quote-unquote the face of the franchise, and there are times I’ve been in the big leagues where I feel I’m not going to be here for long, Bell said toward the end of spring training. “I’ve been on the roller coaster ride for a long time now, so I know the most important thing for me to focus on is whatever I’m doing in the moment, the next at bat.
“I know that sounds cliche. But I can only control not having any regrets about what I do, right? If I put in all the work, I’m going to be in a good place. I love the Nationals and D.C. It’s been a lot of fun and really refreshing, and I’ve always thought I’d like to be here. I just have to do my part, and it will work out.”
This quote is saying our MLBbro made some adjustments with plans to start the season on fire because Josh Bell’s numbers are as astounding as his 261-pound muscular frame.
First off, our MLBbro changed the trajectory of his swing plane and launch angle allowing him to hit ground balls to the opposite field in the right center gap as a right-hand hitter. This small adjustment cut down on not only his strikeouts, which he collected over 100 in his first four seasons, but double play opportunities for the opponent.
His strikeout pace at this point is projected at 71 for the season (He currently stands at 17) with a strikeout rate of 10.9 percent. A massive improvement from last season’s 17.8 percent and a 2020 rate of 26.5 percent.
Nats manager Davey Martinez gave a favorable comparison to his former teammate, the “Big Hurt” Frank Thomas, who was also an imposing figure who understood the science of hitting in the past via MASNsports.com.
“I played with a guy that it looked like he struck out a lot, but the guy hit .345-.350 every year: Frank Thomas,” Nats manager Davey Martinez said, citing one of the most physically imposing hitters in history. “He put the ball in play.”
The “Big Hurt” explained in 2014 the mechanics that led him to a hall of fame career, the same mechanics Bell is trying to master.
MLB Network’s Mark Derosa breaks down Bell’s early season struggles last year and how his adjustments have allowed Bell to thrive this year.
This week marks one year when Josh Bell broke out of his horrible hitting slump. Since May 13, Bell slashed .299/.389/.513 with 28 home runs with 99 RBI that has included his monstrous offensive start this year.
With a complete turnaround from last year’s start batting .333 with five homers and 21 RBI along with an impressive 23 runs scored, our MLBbro is working hard not to over-analyze things, but trust the work he has put in.
“If I was struggling, I’d probably be looking for answers, Bell said. “And right now, it’s just trusting the mentality. I know if I have a swing that I like, it’s kind of looking at where the pitch was. But for the most part, my swing itself has stayed the same, even on different contact points. That’s where I want to be.”
There’s new Melanated Mound Marauder on the come up and his name is Josiah Gray.
With veteran leaders Stephen Strasburg and Joe Ross still on the mend, Gray has become the stopper on the staff.
The Washington Nationals pitcher was a top prospect in the LA Dodgers organization and came to Washington in the blockbuster trade that sent Mad Max Scherzer and talented shortstop Trea Turner to the talent-laden Dodgers in 2021.
Nats fans saw the move as a clearinghouse. A shameless unloading of talent that occurs too often when small market clubs rise to baseball supremacy. Just two years removed from the first World Series title in franchise history, the Nats typically started cleaning shop, cutting star players and potentially high salary and preparing for another rebuild. However, the X-Factor in that trade was Gray. If he was ready to develop into an ace starter, then the Nationals would be patting themselves on the back for years to come.
Washington was picked by most analysts to finish at the bottom of the NL East with the Mets, Braves and Phillies all slugging it out for supremacy once again. 12 games into the season and the Nats are where everyone expected (5-7), but the shining light and hope for the future is the young Gray who completed his second straight quality start, going 5.1 innings and surrendering just one run and three hits while striking out eight in a 6-1 Washington Nationals win over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Tuesday.
The first step towards becoming a competitive club is beating the teams that your roster says you should beat. The Nationals did that on Tuesday, overpowering a Diamondbacks club that is expected to finish among baseball’s worst.
Gray is finding his zone and a comfortable home in the Nation’s capital. The Dodgers will surely wish they had held onto the 24-year-old rising star if he keeps elevating his stature at this pace. Young arms with command and confidence are hard to come by and Gray has both.
“When you see guys time and time again and you continue to get them out, it gives you that extra confidence my stuff is still playing,” Gray said. “They’re still having a difficult time in picking up my stuff. It definitely gives you confidence.”
The Nats have a long way to go and some more talent to acquire in order to compete with the top of the division, but the silver lining is the development of Gray, who after a rough first start against the Mets in which he surrendered four runs in four innings, settled down in his next start tossing 5 scoreless frames against the World Champion Braves.
Gray has a 2-1 record and a 3.14 ERA on the season. In his last 10.1 innings the New Rochelle, NY native has allowed just one earned run and he’s overpowered hitters, striking out 13. His out pitch has been his curveball, which is keeping hitters off balance nicely.
His dominance on the mound, in the absence of a veteran ace such as Max Scherzer, is a huge confidence builder for manager Dave Martinez and his fellow MLBro teammate Josh Bell, who plays first base.
“It’s really exciting to see him grow and I’m pumped to see what happens next for him,” said first Bell, who’s off to a scorching start of his own and seeking a huge bag on the free agent market after the season.
This future Black Ace is one of the rising pitching stars in MLB along with Cincinatti Reds fireballer Hunter Greene and Cleveland Guardians wonderkid Triston McKenzie.
LOS ANGELES – While Nationals fans may not have much to look forward to this season, one bright spot is young right-handed pitcher Josiah Gray.
After a shaky first start against the Mets on April 8, Gray pitched a dominant five scoreless innings. He only allowed one hit, three walks and five strikeouts last Wednesday against the defending world champion Braves, earning his first win of the season.
This start shows Gray’s potential as a pitcher. Drafted in the second round of the 2018 draft by the Cincinnati Reds, Gray has played for three teams since his MLB debut. He was originally dealt from the Reds to the Dodgers in December of 2018, and then from the Dodgers to the Nationals near last season’s trading deadline.
Some critics argue that Gray isn’t an all-star player due to the frequency of his trades, however, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Gray has been a key piece in both of the blockbuster trades he was a part of.
He was traded to the Dodgers— along with Homer Bailey and Jeter Downs—for Matt Kemp, Yasiel Puig, Alex Wood, and Kyle Farmer. Gray was the main player that the Dodgers really wanted in that deal. The team released Bailey immediately, and Downs was traded away a year later.
When the Dodgers traded for Max Scherzer and Trea Turner, Gray was the main asset that the Nationals wanted in return. A prospect who has the potential to help bolster that rotation, like Scherzer did for so many years.
Gray was terrific during his development in the minor leagues. His highest ERA in a season was 2.87.
He lost five games total, while winning 14 games. In addition, Gray has a four-pitch arsenal, averaging a solid 90 to 95 mph fastball, along with a good curveball, slider, and changeup.
Gray has all the attributes that a team wants in a star pitcher. The next step for Gray’s development is showing consistency.
In order to be the pitcher that the Nationals need him to be, and get the team back into playoff contention, Gray needs to consistently perform like his last start—showing that he can really hang and flourish in the big leagues, and that he is someone that they can very much count on.
Gray’s next start should be during the team’s upcoming series this week against the Diamondbacks in Washington D.C.
The Diamondbacks are projected to be one of the worst teams in all of baseball, so this will be a good chance for Gray to show how reliable and consistent of a pitcher he really is.