Padres 1B Josh Bell will be X-Factor as NLCS goes to Philadelphia

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 19: Josh Bell #24 of the San Diego Padres (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 19: Josh Bell #24 of the San Diego Padres (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /

The San Diego Padres are reaping the rewards of their historically aggressive trade deadline, as a team that was already incredibly deadly acquired a superstar in Juan Soto, two All-Star caliber players in Josh Bell and Josh Hader, and a solid utility player in Brandon Drury. That Dodgers upset doesn’t happen without these trades.

While Soto and Hader have rebounded after poor starts and Drury has produced, Bell has been the least effective of the big names A.J. Preller acquired. After making an All-Star game with the Pirates and hitting over .300 prior to his trade away from the Nationals, Bell hit just .192 with three home runs in 53 games with San Diego.

After starting the postseason by getting just three hits in his first 24 at-bats, Bell stepped on the gas by going 3-4 in San Diego’s 8-5 win in Game 2 of the NLCS against the Philadelphia Phillies. Bell launched his second home run of the postseason, going back-to-back with Drury.

Bell getting back to his old self could be the X-factor that sets the Padres apart from the Phillies in this series. Superstars like Soto, Manny Machado, and Bryce Harper are going to get their fair share of big hits. Can secondary players like Bell come through in clutch situations?

Josh Bell will be the X-factor for the San Diego Padres.

Bell’s 162-game pace between the 2019 and 2021 seasons have him hitting .262 with 34 home runs and 106 RBI. That’s not including his near All-Star season in Washington prior to the trade. Switch hitters with that level of power are what every GM dreams of getting in their lineup.

With Ranger Suarez poised to start Game 3 and a host of left-handed relief pitchers that could spoil the fun for San Diego, Bell needs to show that his huge improvements in hitting southpaws translate to playoff baseball. After being far better against right-handers for most of his career, Bell hit .276 with some power against lefties in 2022.

The Padres moved heaven and earth to get Soto and Bell, signaling a desire to resign him in free agency this offseason. Soto and Machado are going to get on base in front of him, but Bell needs to show that he is worth establishing as the team’s long-term first baseman by causing matchup nightmares for Philadelphia.

After years of wasting away on tanking Pirates and underperforming Nationals teams, Bell has the opportunity of a lifetime laid right at his feet. A strong performance in Philly will etch his name in Padres history forever. Hopefully, Game 2 was a sign that he is starting to wake up.