Pittsburgh Pirates 2014 Top Prospects: #8 – Josh Bell

The Pirates Prospects 2014 Prospect Guide is now on sale. The book features prospect reports on everyone in the system, the 2014 top 50 prospects, and the most comprehensive coverage of the Pirates’ farm system that you can find.  While the top 50 prospects are exclusive to the book, we will be releasing the top 20 prospects over the next few weeks.  Be sure to purchase your copy of the book on the products page of the site.

To recap the countdown so far:

20. Michael De La Cruz, OF
19. JaCoby Jones, OF
18. Barrett Barnes, OF
17. Cody Dickson, LHP
16. Blake Taylor, LHP
15. Joely Rodriguez, LHP
14. Andrew Lambo, OF
13. Stolmy Pimentel, RHP
12. Clay Holmes, RHP
11. Tony Sanchez, C
10. Harold Ramirez, OF
9. Luis Heredia, RHP

We continue the countdown with the number 8 prospect, Josh Bell.

Josh Bell showed a glimpse of his power in 2013. (Photo Credit: Tom Bragg)

Josh Bell showed a glimpse of his power in 2013. (Photo Credit: Tom Bragg)

8. Josh Bell, OF

Prior to the 2011 draft, Josh Bell sent a letter out to every team, telling them not to draft him and that he intended to honor his commitment to the University of Texas. The Pirates ignored that, taking him in the second round and paying him a post-first round record $5 M to break that commitment. The signing also broke the draft, with MLB coming up with a new system to restrict spending.

Bell made his pro debut in 2012, but the debut was short lived. He went down early in the season with a knee injury, and never returned due to constant swelling. The missed time caused Bell to return to West Virginia for the 2013 season, where he spent the entire 2013 season. The numbers in 2013 were strong, but not as good as some of the breakout players over the last two years like Gregory Polanco, Alen Hanson, and Stetson Allie. Bell’s plate patience and power both showed promise.

When he was drafted, Bell was advertised as a guy who could eventually hit for plus power and plus average from either side of the plate. There were some concerns by scouts this year that his stance from the right side wouldn’t lead to success in the upper levels due to a lot of movement making the swing long and loopy at times. However, the Pirates didn’t share those concerns, and Bell was better against left-handers (.844 OPS) than he was against right-handers (.794).

Bell didn’t have the monster season that was expected of him when he was drafted, although those numbers could still come. He shows impressive raw power in batting practice, especially from the left side. He’s got the potential to eventually hit for a .300 average with 30 home runs per year, although there’s more projection there than with players in the upper levels. His approach and the plate and the strong plate patience do project well for his ability to hit for average.

The Pirates should send Bell to Bradenton in 2014. If he hits well, he could move up to Altoona by the middle of June or July, depending on how quickly he adjusts to High-A ball. Bell did have good power, especially when you factor in the 37 doubles. There’s no reason why he can’t break out offensively in 2014, since all of the tools are there. Long term he doesn’t fit into the Pirates’ outfield plans, since they have better options available. He’s not strong defensively, so he could be a candidate to eventually move to first base, which is a big position of need throughout the Pirates system. To maintain his value, the Pirates should keep him in the outfield until it is absolutely necessary to move him elsewhere.

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Author: 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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