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.”
Josh Naylor etched his name into Major League Baseball’s history books Monday night by having the greatest late game performance in league history. He is the only player to ever record eight RBI in the eighth inning or later as he carried the Guardians to one of their biggest comebacks in franchise history. For that he takes the top spot on our Week 5 #HighFive list.
1. Josh Naylor
Josh Naylor changed the trajectory of the Guardians season with a few late inning swings Monday night leading him to the top spot on our #HighFive list.
The Guardians entered the ninth inning trailing Chicago 8-2. After getting a few runs across the plate Naylor entered the batters with two-outs and his team trailing 8-4. On the first swing of his at-bat he launched a grand slam to right field off closer Liam Hendricks. He shushed the crowd as he crossed home plate, clearly saving some emotion for what was to come later.
Then with the game tied at nine in the 11th, Naylor launched a two-out three-run home run to break the hearts of fans on Chicago’s Southside.
It may be the best home run celebration I have seen. We see players showing emotion more so now than in years past, but I’m not sure any player has shown more excitement than Naylor did.
In addition to his eight RBI, Naylor also had a game-saving scoop on a throw from third base in the bottom of the ninth inning to give himself a chance at being the hero later on.
Over his last seven games Naylor is batting .417 with a .875 slugging percentage, three home runs, 14 RBI and an on base percentage over .440.
He has been up and down from the Majors to the Minors over the last few seasons, but by the way he is going this season, he won’t have to leave the Guardians locker room any time soon.
2. Mookie Betts
We are going to see MVP Mookie Betts this entire season. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts made it clear before the season his team has one goal in mind, win their eighth World Series championship, prompting Betts to respond as the teams table setter out of the leadoff spot.
Tuesday his season long 10-game hitting streak snapped but he made up for it by nailing a runner out at home in the first inning of that same game.
His 22 runs scored is good for second in the Majors as he trails Manny Machado by one for the lead. Over his last seven games Betts is batting .300 with seven RBI, two home runs and five runs scored helping his Dodgers get to the top of the N.L. West.
3. Aaron Judge
Aaron Judge was the first player in the Majors to reach 10 home runs and has his team with the best record in the League going into this weekend as he earns the third spot on our #HighFive list.
Judge hit the first walk-off home run Tuesday night to kickoff what would be a three-game sweep in round one of their season-long matchup with the Blue Jay.
Through his last seven games Judge is batting .259 with six RBI, three walks and two home runs.
This weekend his Yankees travel to Chicago to take on Tim Anderson and the White Sox in their first matchup since the Field of Dreams game.
Since the debut of the first Black player in the MLB, Jackie Robinson, there have been several notable Black All-Stars. Rickey Henderson, Ken Griffey Jr., Tony Gwynn, and Frank Thomas are just a few of the well-deserving Black players who have achieved this great feat.
The 2022 MLB season is still in its early stages, but if the early indicators are any sure signs, we may have a plethora of new Black All-Stars.
MLBbros Bound for L.A.
The first quarter of the season is hardly a large enough sample size to predict All Star rosters. With MLB rules stating that every team must be represented at the All-Star game, this helps us to broaden our perspective for potential All Star players. MLBbros Byron Buxton, JP Crawford, and Jazz Chisholm are the best candidates to represent the Black players in Los Angeles, the home of the 2022 MLB All Star game.
Byron Buxton: I mentioned earlier in the season that if Byron Buxton could remain healthy, he would be a hot topic in the MVP conversation. While a knee injury did result in him missing almost two weeks of playing time, he has since come back on a tear.
Through 16 games Buxton is batting .290 with 7 HR. Not to mention since his return to the lineup the Twins have been winning more consistently, winning eight out of their last ten games.
J.P. Crawford: The Seattle Mariners shortstop is having a career season. He is batting .364 and has improved dramatically at the plate this season. Fresh off a 5 year/ $51 million contract extension, Crawford has rewarded Seattle with his best season to date.
Although he has not been the defensive superstar that he was years prior, his body of work (Gold Glove 2020) shows he can return to being an elite defender. If he can maintain his improved batting and return to top tier defense, he will undoubtedly be Seattle’s All-Star representative.
Jazz Chisholm: After injuries slowed down what was an overall promising year in 2021, the Miami Marlins 2nd baseman Jazz Chisholm has started strong once again. Chisholm is still providing excellent defense on the field and tremendous speed on the basepaths.
He already has three triples on the year, which is one shy of his previous year’s total of four. With four HRs also and a .329 batting average, Chisholm is proving to be one of the best all-around young players in the sport.
MLBbros on All-Star Watch
There are also some MLBbros who are on the All-Star radar and can boost their chances with strong performances in May and June. Josh Bell and George Springer are both having good seasons for their respective clubs.
MLBbro Josh Bell, while not a household name, is on fire batting an impressive .349 and is top five in the National League in Batting Average and Hits. In his seventh year, Bell is putting together the best season since his 2019 All-Star season.
George Springer is no stranger to the All-Star game, as he has already made three appearances. Yet, he has not been an All-Star since 2019. He is finding success early in his first year with his new team: the Toronto Blue Jays. If he can continue being an offensive catalyst at the top of their lineup, and the Blue Jays continue their success, there is a good chance that Springer makes his fourth All-Star appearance in Los Angeles.
The All-Star game in baseball is one of the most competitive All-Star games in professional sports. Both leagues fight for supremacy and the game is fun and compelling. If these MLBbros continue to excel through the summer months of the season, they will earn themselves an opportunity to shine on one of the biggest stages the sport can offer.