Spring has not been kind to new Cleveland Guardians slugger Josh Bell
Results in spring training are tough to properly evaluate, with too much stock being put into positive outcomes that mean nothing once the regular season starts. On the other end of the spectrum, negative results can be dismissed for similar reasons, even though they may indicate a particular issue that could carry over into the regular season.
Unfortunately, the latter currently applies to new Cleveland Guardians slugger Josh Bell.
It's only 28 at-bats over 11 games, but Bell has just five hits while striking out nine times. This would be far less concerning if Bell's production did not fall off a cliff upon landing in San Diego late last season. Bell's OPS dropped nearly 300 points (.877 to .587) in addition to his strikeout frequency increasing from 14% of his plate appearances to 19.5% over the course of 53 games. The only other time Bell has struggled like this was the abbreviated 2020 season. Bell's output was very comparable with a .669 OPS and 26.4% strikeout rate in 57 games. The 2020 campaign did have a few more home runs (eight to five), but his Padre tenure has a slight edge in doubles (five to three).
Bell did perform better in the postseason, with a .250/.270/.444 slash line and his .710 OPS being significantly closer to his career average (.810). Strikeouts were still a problem as Bell struck out 12 times in 37 plate appearances. Something can be said about Bell performing better when the games are more important, but then again this uptick could be just a blip that any random player is capable of.
A problem could arise if the lackluster results carry over into the regular season. Bell is being counted on to provide some pop to a lineup that did not have much of it last season. If the results simply are not there it could create an issue for Cleveland's highest-paid player. Bell is being paid $16.5 million this season (with a player option for next season with an identical salary) that currently accounts for 22% of the Guardians payroll. Cleveland could find itself in a tough spot and would be forced to retool on the fly if Bell is unable to find his footing once the games actually count.
In a perfect world, though, Bell puts his spring performance behind him and performs at the level expected, resulting in this becoming much ado about nothing.