JOSH BELL
CORNER OUTFIELDER
  Born: August 8, 1992
Height: 6′ 4″
Weight: 195
Bats: Both
Throws: Right
Drafted: 2nd Round, 61st Overall, 2011
How Acquired: Draft
High School: Jesuit College Prep
Agent: Scott Boras

WTM’S PIRATE PLAYER PROFILES

Once the dust settled at the end of the draft, Bell figured to be the main determining factor in whether the Pirates’ 2011 draft was regarded as a success.  With the team struggling on offense in the majors, Bell fills a “need” as a strong hitting prospect in a system that is thin on hitting prospects and nearly devoid of power.  He was widely regarded as the best prep hitter in the 2011 draft, a switch hitter who projects to have plus power, as well as plus hitting skills, from both sides of the plate.  Defensively he profiles as a corner outfielder and he does not run well.

Bell was expected to be extraordinarily difficult to sign.  Baseball America rated him the 15th best prospect and 5th best hitter in the draft, but he fell to the second round after sending a letter to all teams urging them not to draft him because he intended to honor his commitment to the University of Texas.  Bell comes from a family that is both well off and well educated, and his mother was known to want him to go to college.  There was considerable speculation that he wouldn’t sign at any price, but the Pirates succeeded in signing him for a $5M bonus, nearly double the previous record for a post-first-round pick.

2012
A:  274/288/403, 62 AB, 5 2B, 1 HR, 2 BB, 21 K, 1-1 SB

Bell started off slowly, as he struggled with pitch recognition and often swung late.  He started coming around after a few games, though, and hit .300 in his last ten games.  Unfortunately, he hurt his knee sliding into second and required surgery.  His recovery didn’t go well, as he continued to have irritation, leading to fluid buildup.  The Pirates had expected him to return during the summer, but he wasn’t ready then or for fall instructionals, either.  Instead, he was looking at the possibility of further surgery.

2013
A:  279/353/453, 459 AB, 37 2B, 2 3B, 13 HR, 52 BB, 90 K, 1-3 SB

Bell attended strenuous workouts in the off-season and seemed fully healthy in spring training.  He returned to West Virginia and had a good, but not a breakout, season.  He struggled a little early in the season, drawing comments from scouts that his bat speed was poor.  He struck out a great deal the first two months, then started making much better contact.  In fact, his strikeout and walk tendencies went through some dramatic changes during the season:

MONTH BB K
April 5 27
May 21 25
June 3 12
July 9 13
August 14 13

It looks as if Bell was searching for a hitting style he found comfortable, but the bottom line is that his K rate decreased dramatically after the first two months and his patience at the plate was fine.  The HR power isn’t there yet, but he did finish tied for third in the South Atlantic League in doubles.  Whether some of those doubles will turn into HRs remains to be seen.  Bell is a big, very strong guy now and he wasn’t exceptionally young for the SAL (he turned 21 in August).  Still, he should be a couple years or more away from his power peak.  He hit better from the right side, posting a 302/353/493 line, against 272/353/442 from the left side.  I’m not sure, though, that the difference was enough to be noteworthy.  Bell tweaked his injured knee early in the year and missed a few games and the Pirates periodically rested him throughout the season.  They denied, though, that there’s any ongoing problem with the knee.

2014
A+:  335/384/502, 331 AB, 20 2B, 4 3B, 9 HR, 25 BB, 43 K, 5-9 SB
AA:  287/343/309, 94 AB, 2 2B, 8 BB, 12 K, 4-5 SB

Bell had a semi-breakout season in 2014.  He played at Bradenton until earning a promotion to Altoona in mid-July.  A knee contusion ended his season on August 12.  Although he didn’t have enough plate appearances to qualify, he still led the Florida State League in batting.  This was thanks to the rule that, if adding enough at-bats to a player’s total to allow him to qualify would still leave him as the leader, then he’s declared the winner.  Even though his power stats don’t appear overwhelming, he also had the highest slugging average of any player with 270+ plate appearances.  Some caution is needed with these stats, though, because the FSL is an extreme pitchers league, but McKechnie Field in Bradenton is the best hitters park in the league and Bell hit much better at home.  Bell made consistent contact, striking out only once every eight ABs.  He didn’t pull the ball much, though, and failed to reach double digits in HRs, so the question remains just how much power he’ll have.  He handled AA pitching well after a 5-32 start, but obviously wasn’t hitting for any power at all when his season ended.  Overall, Bell hit LHPs a little better, with an .852 OPS against them and .800 against RHPs.  He showed a little more speed than expected, but he may slow down fairly quickly as he gets older.  He didn’t have great range in right.

Bell will almost certainly return to Altoona to open 2015.  Before then, the Pirates will send him to the Arizona Fall League, where he’s expected to play first base.  If that works out well, it will leave him with a better path to Pittsburgh, given the presence of Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco in the outfield.

STATS
HS
BA
OBP
SLG
AB
2B
3B
HR
BB
K
SB
CS
2011
.552
.687
1.073
81
8
0
14
48
5
19
3
CONTRACT INFORMATION
2015:  Minor league contract.
PLAYER INFORMATION
Signing Bonus:  $5,000,000
MiLB Debut: 2012
MLB Debut:
MiLB FA Eligible: 2017
MLB FA Eligible:
Rule 5 Eligible:  2015
Added to 40-Man:
Options Remaining: 3
MLB Service Time: 0.000
TRANSACTIONS
June 7, 2011: Drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 2nd round, 61st overall pick; signed on August 15.