Kyle Schwarber Josh Bell 2021 Outlooks: The Washington Nationals made two moves to upgrade their offense this offseason, trading for 1B Josh Bell and signing OF Kyle Schwarber.
Around Christmas, the Nationals acquired Bell from the Pittsburgh Pirates, who are basically selling off anyone good that they have, to the Nationals for two pitching prospects. The Nationals seem to have been able to buy low after Bell had a subpar 2020 season, in addition to a lackluster back end of 2019. Trading for Bell was the Nationals’ first big offseason move and addressed an area of need.
In early January, Washington inked a deal with Scwharber, who wasn’t tendered a contract by the Chicago Cubs. At first glance, adding Schwarber might seem like a strange signing. He’s not viewed as having much defense but is somewhat underrated in the outfield.
Yet he brings a lot of power from a position of need for the Nats. It’s obvious the Nationals are banking on 2020 being a weird year for him (like it was for a lot of other players) and hoping he returns to form in 2021.
Josh Bell, Kyle Schwarber 2021 Outlooks
Josh Bell 2021 Outlook: MLB Betting, Fantasy Baseball Tips
Josh Bell is a switch-hitting, power-hitting first baseman. (His arrival all but guarantees Ryan Zimmerman will come off the bench most of the season as a pinch hitter, or serve as a designated hitter against lefties.) Bell had a career year in 2019, breaking out with 37 home runs, bringing in over 100 batters, all while sporting a .277 average. The question is, do we get that Josh Bell or do we get 2020 Josh Bell? Let’s take a look at how he did last season.
Josh Bell: 2020 Review
He had the lowest batting average of his career at .226. Even though the season was short, eight home runs marked a disappointing output from him, when fantasy managers were expecting more power. One of his big issues was a lot of medium contact — nearly 48 percent according to FanGraphs. He also suffered from a 55.7 percent ground ball rate, up 11 percent from 2019.
Bell swung and missed at a lot more pitches out of the zone than he usually does. His chase rate was 30 percent, which is right around his career average, but he made contact on about 8 percent fewer of pitches that he swung at outside of the strike zone. His contact on pitches in the strike zone was down as well. His swinging-strike rate increased. On the surface, this might look like a hitter who is not disciplined, but he should be viewed as a hitter who was lost in 2020.
He has been vocal about how important in-game video is to him and how he uses it to make adjustments. Well, the in-game video was not available to players in 2020 to prevent crowding and to stay in line with COVID-19 protocols. Let’s see if that comes back in 2021.
Josh Bell 2021 Fantasy Outlook
A lot of Bell’s issues in 2020 can be fixed going into 2021, and I expect the Nationals to be able to remedy those problems. The Nats have one of the best hitting coaches in the league in Kevin Long (look at what he has done for Trea Turner and Juan Soto), and I expect with a hopeful return of in-game video, Bell will be able to right the ship on some of his problems.
If he can make adjustments in 2021, he could be right back to being a productive first baseman. He’ll likely wind up as the team’s third or fourth hitter, so he’ll have a chance to pick up a lot of RBI chances. It’s realistic to expect another .250-.270 AVG, 30-plus-homer, and 100-RBI season for him, but definitely look into whether the MLB is making the in-game video available to players this season.
I’d view him as a top-15 first baseman going into 2021, and if people are going to avoid him in drafts because they are scared of his 2020 season, that’s good for you.
Schwarber signs with a Nationals team that is re-stocking for another World Series push. 2020 was a lost year for the Nats. They had a few players opt out and dealt with a plethora of injuries. They also missed a lot of pop in the middle of their lineup, and outside of Turner and Soto, they had little offensive production.