Josh Bell and Kyle Schwarber 2021 Outlook: Nationals Betting, Fantasy Baseball Tips
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.
Kyle Schwarber: 2020 Review
So let’s look at what he did in 2020. (HINT: It was really bad.) He did have his fair share of issues, and a lot of those issues can be traced to his hard contact and his launch angle. According to FanGraphs, his hard contact dipped slightly, and on top of that, his launch angle went from 15 degrees in 2019 to 8.8 degrees in 2020. His exit velocity was down, as was his barrel rate.
Due to the decrease in hard contact and the dip in launch angle, his isolated power reduced, his BABIP (aka the “luck” metric) dropped to a super low .219, and his ground-ball rate jumped to 50 percent, nearly 10 percent more than his career average. Naturally, when you see a player with a .188 batting average, you’re going to want to stay away from him, but Schwarber is someone you should be targeting in 2021.
Kyle Schwarber 2021 Fantasy Outlook
What does Schwarber bring to the table for that Nats this season? I expect his power to play in Washington. Nationals Park is consistently a good hitters park – and you have to like what power lefties have done there (Soto, Bryce Harper, Adam Dunn, Adam LaRoche). You may have actually seen Schwarber crush home runs in that ballpark if you watched the 2018 home run derby, where he lost to Harper in the final round. It’s obviously a different situation, but it gives you an idea of what he can do.
He’ll be batting in the middle of the lineup, an improved lineup, somewhere around one of the best hitters in baseball – Soto – and fellow newly acquired slugger Josh Bell. Schwarber will have some chances to see good pitches and pick up walks, and he does walk – he’s averaged a 13% walk rate over his career. He gets on base at a good clip as well.
Turner in the leadoff position definitely helps the case for drafting Schwarber, since it will give him a chance to pick up RBI. Something to consider is that Schwarber has batted either fifth or sixth in the lineup for most of his career, but started off his career batting out of the 2-hole. If we see him bat second in the lineup for the Nationals, we could see a nice spike for him in both runs and RBI.
His career-high in runs and RBI came in 2019 when he scored 82 and 92 respectively, along with 39 home runs, and he did that spending most of the season in the leadoff position. He batted .250 in 2019. I don’t see him being able to replicate the batting average, simply because he doesn’t make enough contact, but I do see him being able to get close to those power numbers.
If the Nats can get him to put more balls in the air, and get some more consistent contact, you could be looking at a solid sleeper bat. He’s a bit risky because of the batting average, but with the potential for 30 plus home runs, he could be a really solid late addition in drafts, especially if we see the designated hitter in the National League.
Nationals Win Total Bet
We will have to wait and see what the MLB does with the schedule going into the 2021 season. As of late January, it looks like the plan is to play all 162 games, but that can change. We are in unprecedented times. That being said, we can project a little bit.
Aside from 2020, the Nationals have had a winning record every year since 2012, and haven’t lost more than 80 games since the 2010 season. However, they are in a competitive division. The Mets and Braves made some key signings and have improved. The Marlins looked surprisingly well last year.
The big thing for the Nationals going into 2021 will be health, as injuries, especially significant ones to players early in the season, have plagued them for years. If players like Stephen Strasburg, Starlin Castro and Max Scherzer can come into the season healthy and stay healthy, I think the Nationals are poised to make another championship run.
If the over/under for wins is set around 88.5, I’d take the over. The management and players know they’re in a tough division, and they have the pieces to compete.
Nationals Win NL East Division Bet?
Depending on where you look, you might see different options. BetMGM has the Nationals at +650 to win the division. They are third behind the Braves at +125 and the Mets at +175. Rounding out the division are the Phillies at +650 and the Marlins at +1600.
This division is certainly competitive, but the Nationals have a realistic shot to contend, and getting them to win the division at +650 is a pretty low-risk bet that could pay big dividends. If they make any more moves, including a rumor that they’ll tradefor Kris Bryant, that number is bound to drop, so if you feel good about it, jump on it now.
Nationals World Series Futures Bet
BetMGM puts the Nats at +3500 to win the 2021 World Series, and although the Nationals have done quite a bit to improve throughout the offseason, all roads to the World Series go through the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres in the NL.
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