Pirates Draft Josh Bell

The Pirates took a huge risk drafting Bell, with huge upside if he signs.

The Pittsburgh Pirates made a huge splash in the second round for the second year in a row, selecting outfielder Josh Bell with the 61st overall pick.  Bell was rated the 15th best prospect by Baseball America, but fell to the second round.  The reason he fell is because he sent a letter to all of the teams telling them not to draft him.  He insists that he is honoring his commitment to the University of Texas.  However, he is being advised by Scott Boras, which raises questions about his true intentions.  That’s especially the case when considering that we’re getting the usual “signability” lines, such as “a college education is important to his family”, and “his mother is a professor”.  There is some speculation that it could take up to $6.5 M to sign Bell, which for comparison, is the same that the Pirates paid Jameson Taillon in 2010.

There is a reason the Pirates took a risk on Bell.  He’s a switch hitter that projects to have plus power, as well as plus hitting skills, from both sides of the plate.  He’s 6′ 2″, 206 pounds, and mostly gets his value from the bat.  Defensively he profiles as a corner outfielder, and he only grades as an average runner.  Bell is likely to be the fan favorite of this draft. With the Pirates struggling on offense in the majors, Bell fills a “need” as a strong hitting prospect in a system that is thin with hitting prospects.

Bell is coming off a year where he hit for a .552/.687/1.073 line in 81 at-bats, with 14 homers and 19 stolen bases.  Baseball America not only rated him the 15th overall player in the draft, but also the fifth best hitter in the draft.  He would be a huge boost to a system that is very thin on hitting prospects, although he might not be up as quickly as first rounder Gerrit Cole, which means he profiles more as a guy who could potentially replace Andrew McCutchen or Jose Tabata around 2015-2016, rather than a guy who can come up and play along side both of the current Pirates outfielders.

If the Pirates can’t sign Bell, they would be compensated with the 62nd overall pick in the 2012 draft.  I talked in my day two preview about how Bell was worth the risk, although it wouldn’t be a total failure if the Pirates didn’t get him signed, as he might be the most difficult signing the Pirates have had, even including first rounders, and Stetson Allie.  If signed, he would easily be a top five prospect in the system.

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Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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  • Anonymous

    Wondering if the Pirates were figuring they have at best a 50/50 chance of signing him, & if it doesn’t pan out, they have a much higher round 2 pick next year than they would, if they can stay close to .500…they would, in effect, be stockpiling for next year. If he does sign by paying well over slot; great. Either way, pretty shrewd, if that’s their thinking. As C. Sheen might say re:either scenario: WINNING!!


    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6KEYHS3XWH74U3LRIHGWL7XPBA Nate

      Good analysis of the potential strategy – I like it.  This might be the last year before “hard slotting”, so that increases the Pirates negotiating position too.

  • Anonymous

    Like the top 3 picks, might take about 15mil to sign them, with a normal 10-11 mil budget I don’t know how they are going to pull this off.

    • Todd Smith

      With Cole surely getting a major league deal, seems like the Pirates could spread his bonus out over a few years to lighten the load.  Similar to what they did with Pedro.

  • http://twitter.com/DSWilliams Dan

    Well, the world needs ditch diggers, too!

  • Anonymous

    Don’t see how not signing him pays off. 62nd next year doesn’t seem like it might net a strong pick. Dealing with Boras the snake twice in the early rounds for a guy who says he’s not going to sign…lose, lose IMO. Hope it works out and for reasonable money. Pirates F.O. strong on guts or stupid?

  • Anonymous

    May have to take win/win comment back! The more I think about it, wasn’t the Pirate second selection suppsed to be like #33? I thought that they would
    come up right behind the last (#32?) pick of the first round, ala Pro Football
    scenarios. What up with that? Did they sneak in with 28 new teams already,or were there that many supplemental picks??!

    Maybe the pick scared off teams so that he’d draw an overslotting team like the Pirates (who are starting to look like an up & coming team!!) If Boras is his agent, despite announcing he isn’t evenreally interested , well, let the (financial) games begin!!!

  • Anonymous

    If Pirates offer $3.5 – $4 million to Bell, that would be tough for him to decline.  Also would be more money than recommended slot if he was drafted 15th overall, which is where Baseball America had him ranked for this year.  Shrewd way for Boras to get more money for his client.  Instead of negotiating with a team who would have drafted  Bell in mid first round and trying to get the team to move up from that slot/$$ recommendation, Boras now has the team negotiating against the college commitment competely decoupled from slot recommendations.  I’m sure Boras told Huntington it will take $6 million.  Either way, we know negotiations will go right to the deadline.  Trust me, the kid is signable.   Buccos just need to make strong enough offer.

  • Anonymous

    Would much rather see them spend 4-even 4 plus for a legit #15 pick than spend that for a ham & egger middle infield free agent. Coonely & Boras must know each other enough to horsetrade a mutually satisfactory agreement. Neither is a fool, and could turn out a win x 3, Pirates, Boras and the player!!!

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