2023 Fantasy Baseball Should You Draft Josh Bell?

by Connor Charbat
2023 Fantasy Baseball: Should You Draft Josh Bell?

Josh Bell was once a higly regarded player, yet now his stock has fallen. Despite that, should you draft him in your Fantasy Baseball leagues in 2023? I'm going to give you the answer.

The Cleveland Guardians were one of the most surprising teams of the 2022 season. After taking a quick look at their starting lineup at the beginning of 2022, it was quite easy to be underwhelmed. They simply lacked any form of power.

To many people's surprise, the Guardians went on to win the AL Central while being one of the most unique teams in the MLB. What they lacked in the power department, they made up for in speed and OBP.

This team composition could only get them so far, unfortunately. Facing off against the Bronx Bombers in the playoffs was no easy task, and the Guardians failed to deliver.

The Guardians finished 2022 with only two players hitting 20+ home runs, Jose Ramirez (29) and Josh Naylor (20). Cleveland finished 29th out of 30 teams in home runs with 127 (Detroit was 30th was 110). The New York Yankees led the league with 254. 2022 was definitely a power outage for the Guardians.

Once the offseason arrived, the Guardians made almost zero roster changes. The only one of note was signing one of, if not the biggest, switch hitter in the MLB, the 6'4" 260 pound Josh Bell. Will Bell transform the Guardians into a feared lineup? Probably not, but he certainly helps.

Let's dive in and take a look at 2023 Fantasy Baseball: Should You Draft Josh Bell?

2023 Fantasy Baseball Should You Draft Josh Bell?

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After splitting time between the Washington Nationals and San Diego Padres, Bell is looking to improve on an overall mediocre 2022 season. Last season was a mixed bag for Bell owners as they found themselves admiring the first baseman through the first 100 games of the season. However, once the trade to San Diego took place, things were downright awful for the slugger.

Recency bias is a huge factor in Fantasy Baseball ADPs. If a player has a horrendous first half but kicks it into gear for the rest of the season, owners have no problem reaching for that player in the following season's draft. On the other hand, if a player dominates for the first half and completely crumbles for the rest of the year, drafting that player becomes much harder.

Being traded midseason is never an easy thing to deal with, mentally and physically. The new ballpark, new team, new lineup, new coaches, etc. - all of these changes matter.

Now, being traded in the offseason is a bit easier. Players have much more time to acclimate to their new climate. They simply have more time to adjust. This is why I think Bell has a much better chance of repeating last year's first half than he does repeating his abysmal performance in San Diego.

Bell's ADP is currently hovering right around 172 making him the 19th-ranked first baseman in 2023. Too high? No way. Too low? Well, kind of.

I won't tell you to go draft Bell as a top 10 first baseman, but I will make a case for the top 15.

Josh Bell in 2022

Zooming out on a player's statistical performance is a must; you never want to put too much weight on either half of the season. Both matter equally. To reiterate the point from a few paragraphs above, is it harder to draft a player who you most recently remember having a horrendous second half? Sure, but let's not forget about the first half.

Through the first 103 games of 2022, Bell slashed .301/.384/.493 on his way to hitting 14 home runs and driving in 57. Throughout his remaining 53 games in San Diego, Bell slashed .192/.316/.271 with only three home runs and 14 RBIs. That's a substantial difference from one team to another.

A couple of statistical categories remained fantastic for Bell throughout 2022. Those stats were Strikeout% and Walk%. Bell's plate discipline is phenomenal.

Bell's Strikeout% was 15.8% in 2022 (MLB average is 22.3% since 2016) and his Walk% was 12.5% (MLB average is 8.5% since 2016). The Guardians had the lowest Strikeout% in the MLB in 2022, however, they also had the third lowest Walk%. Bell will surely help in both of those categories.

Josh Bell's Fantasy Value in 2023

Good Value

As projections currently stand, Bell will be batting clean-up for the Guardians come opening day. This is perfect for Bell. He will be hitting behind Steven Kwan, Amed Rosario, and Jose Ramirez. Those three players all hit .280 and above and are constantly on base. Bell will have a magnitude of opportunities this year to drive in runs and bat with RISP.

Bell is currently being drafted behind Ty France, Jake Cronenworth, Rowdy Tellez, Jose Miranda, Ryan Mountcastle, and Andrew Vaughn. I believe drafting Bell in front of France and Cronenworth is a no-brainer. Drafting Bell in front of those other names is a bit harder to justify, but I could certainly make an argument.

Remember, Bell hit 37 home runs in 2019 and 27 in 2021. He has power, that's a fact. Did his power go missing last year? Yes, but there is still that upside there for him. He finished in the 83rd percentile in Max Exit Velocity and the 84th percentile in xwOBA.

His HardHit% did make a four-year low in 2022 and I'm banking on that being an outlier considering he was top 7th percentile in HardHit% in 2021. I'm counting on a rebound and that's obvious.

Be confident taking Bell as a top-15 first baseman. He can easily put up another fantastic season as he did not too long ago.

Not So Good Value

Don't get me wrong, drafting Bell as 1B19 isn't the steal of the century. He's probably rated just right. I think there's at least one more good power year in him, if not more.

However, Bell is now 30 years old. Players, batters specifically, generally peak in their mid to late twenties. Not so often do you see a player peak at age 30+, though it does happen.

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Has Bell peaked? Probably. Have the guys being drafted around him peaked? Probably not. This is the main argument against drafting Josh Bell at his current ADP. There is true value being drafted before him. Vaughn, Mountcastle, Miranda, Tellez, Cronenworth, and France are all in their mid to late twenties. You can bank on at least one or two of them breaking out this year and outperforming Bell. Picking the right one is the hard part.

Is there value after Bell's ADP? Of course. Brandon Drury broke out in a big way in 2022 and is 1B21 with an ADP of 185. You could even wait for 100 picks and grab Wil Myers at ADP 292 if you're feeling risky. Myers could easily hit 20 home runs in Great American Ballpark and no one would bat an eye.

The Verdict: 2023 Fantasy Baseball: Should You Draft Josh Bell?

I love Bell in a Cleveland uniform. I think the quality above him in the lineup is nothing but a positive for him. As mentioned before, he will have ample opportunities to drive in runs and hit in high-leverage situations.

I think this simply comes down to the league format. Dynasty draft? For sure not. Redraft or OBP league? Absolutely. Bell has solidified himself as an OBP machine. In 2023, Bell will be a great value for runs, RBIs, OBP, and possibly even home runs. He will certainly play almost every day and could spend a lot of time as a DH which would allow him to save some energy for his at-bats.

Keep an eye on how Cleveland uses him in the field and as a DH. He frequently excels in the first half of the season and tends to cool off later on, but if Cleveland DH's him for a majority of the season, things could balance out for Bell who I'm projecting will have a great 2023.

Be prepared for the upcoming season by checking out all the 2023 Fantasy Baseball content on Fantasy Six Pack.

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