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.