Why It Appears That Josh Bell Is Finally Living Up To The Hype…

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

Prior to the season we ranked the Pirates’ Josh Bell as the team’s fifth best prospect saying:

“He was moved from the outfield to 1B, where his bat doesn’t really translate as well unless he figures out how to tap into his power. Sure his 65 K in 489 AB last season was impressive (he also added 65 BB), which should allow him to hit for a strong average, but he mustered just 7 HR (along with 24 doubles and 9 triples). That sounds an awful lot like James Loney, doesn’t it?”

Obviously a James Loney comparison is never something we want to hear. That said, 62 games into the 2016 season there’s some reason to believe that the 23-year old switch hitter is finally starting to figure things out:

.312 (72-231), 8 HR, 39 RBI, 29 R, 1 SB

He already has nine extra base hits in June (6 doubles, 3 home runs) and on the season has added 16 doubles and 2 triples. There has always been talk about power, and while the numbers are hardly gaudy they at least are trending in the right direction.

Prior to the season MILB.com had the following quote from Larry Broadway, Pittsburgh’s Director of Minor League Operations:

“Power is the last thing to come with good Major League hitters. He is focused on learning to be a good hitter first, the power will be there. Defensively he has definitely made progress and will continue to improve as he is driven to be the best he can be.”

It seems to be true, with Bell already exceeding last year’s home run total (7) and playing in the International League (not the hitter friendly Pacific Coast League). It also goes along with what Rich Wilson of Prospect 361 said of Bell prior to the season:

“When drafted, most observers saw plus raw power that would turn into 25 in-game home run power. However, that hasn’t happened. He still shows the raw power in batting practice and he showed the world that raw power when he launched a bomb on National television in the 2015 Futures Games. What has taken a step forward is his approach and contactability. He has great strike zone awareness and excellent barrel control and that should translate into a plus hitter at the major league level (.280 average and above).”

So he’s continued to improve as a hitter, which in turn will allow him to tap into his power but not sell out for it. That’s a great combination and something that isn’t often seen around the game. Granted Bell’s strikeout rate is up a little bit this season, but is anyone going to complain about this type of plate discipline:

  • Strikeouts – 17.6%
  • Walks – 11.5%

Suddenly Bell is looking like he could develop into a consistent .280ish hitter with 20+ HR a year (and capable of putting together a .300/25 HR campaign). At a deep position that may not be elite, but it surely would entrench him as a solid option.

Preseason Grade – B-
Current Grade – B+

Sources – MILB.com, Fangraphs, Prospect 361

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