The Pittsburgh Pirates had several top candidates for the 2014 Minor League Player of the Year award. The race ultimately came down to three players, with Josh Bell, JaCoby Jones, and Keon Broxton putting up the best numbers out of all of the full-season players. In the end, Bell was chosen as the Pirates Prospects 2014 Minor League Player of the Year, making this the fourth year in a row that an outfielder has won the award.

The decision to go with Bell over Jones and Broxton was made with the decision to put less weight on Bell’s Double-A numbers. Bell had a .335/.384/.502 line in 363 plate appearances with Bradenton, putting up better numbers at his original level than Broxton and Jones did at their levels. He eventually moved up to Altoona, where he had a .287/.343/.309 line in 102 plate appearances. The average and OBP were fine, but the power dropped in his initial run through the new level.

While Bell was challenged with a new level, Broxton and Jones got to stay at the same level all year. That led to a huge finish to the season for each player, which came after they established they could hit at the level. Even with that advantage, and even with Bell’s struggles at a new level, they were only slightly ahead of him as far as basic numbers. Bell had an .834 OPS in 465 plate appearances, while Broxton was at .853 in 471 plate appearances and Jones was at .851 in 501 plate appearances.

The advanced metrics show that Bell was ahead of those two, even with his jump to Altoona. He posted a .382 wOBA and a 138 wRC+. Jones was right behind him, with a .381 wOBA and a 134 wRC+. Broxton was up there with a .377 wOBA and a 134 wRC+.

The age and experience factor also worked to Bell’s benefit. This was his age 21 season, and his first at the High-A level. This was Broxton’s age 24 season, and his second run through the Double-A level. Jones is 22, and played in a major college program at LSU for three years, which is about the equivalent of what he saw in Low-A. Bell’s age and lack of experience at his two levels this year make his numbers even more impressive.

When he was drafted, Bell was projected to be a guy who could eventually hit for plus average from both sides of the plate, and plus power from both sides of the plate. The sky was seen to be the limit, with the potential for a .300 average and 25-30 homers a year. Bell made some great strides in Bradenton this year, showing improvements with his ability to hit for average and hit against left-handers. He also displayed some solid power, mostly in the form of gap power, but also some power that will translate better in a league that isn’t so pitcher friendly. His struggles in the power department in 102 plate appearances in Double-A don’t raise many concerns, since it’s common for a hitter to struggle initially when making that jump.

Bell looks to be a big part of the future for the Pirates. He won’t fit in the outfield plans in the long-term, which is why the Pirates are moving him to first base in the Arizona Fall League this off-season. He should carry that over to next year, where he will likely start the season back in Altoona. If he has success in the AFL this off-season, and carries that success over to the season next year like Gregory Polanco did this year, then he could work his way to the majors by the end of the year. A more conservative timeline has him taking over as the starting first baseman in 2016.

Josh Bell is the Pirates Prospects 2014 Minor League Player of the Year. (Photo credit: David Hague)
Josh Bell is the Pirates Prospects 2014 Minor League Player of the Year. (Photo credit: David Hague)

Below you will find our Minor League Players of the Year for each level in the farm system, our previous overall award winners, and the 2014 monthly awards.

Previous Pirates Prospects Minor League Players of the Year

2013 – Andrew Lambo

2012 – Gregory Polanco

2011 – Starling Marte

2014 Pirates Prospects Minor League Players of the Year By Level

Indianapolis – Gregory Polanco, OF (.328/.390/.504, 7 HR, 305 PA)

Altoona – Keon Broxton, OF (.275/.369/.484, 15 HR, 471 PA)

Bradenton – Josh Bell, OF (.325/.375/.459, 9 HR, 465 PA)

West Virginia – JaCoby Jones, SS (.288/.347/.503, 23 HR, 501 PA)

Jamestown – Chase Simpson, 3B (.286/.369/.481, 7 HR, 224 PA)

Bristol – Jerrick Suiter, 1B/OF (.279/.403/.358, 1 HR, 238 PA)

GCL Pirates – Tito Polo, OF (.291/.374/.475, 3 HR, 186 PA)

2014 Pirates Prospects Player of the Month Awards

April

Overall – Gregory Polanco

Indianapolis – Gregory Polanco

Altoona – Stetson Allie

Bradenton – Josh Bell

West Virginia – Erich Weiss

May

Overall – Keon Broxton

Indianapolis – Chris Dickerson

Altoona – Keon Broxton

Bradenton – Josh Bell

West Virginia – JaCoby Jones

June

Overall – Josh Bell

Indianapolis – Chris Dickerson

Altoona – Willy Garcia

Bradenton – Josh Bell

West Virginia – Harold Ramirez

July

Overall – JaCoby Jones

Indianapolis – Tony Sanchez

Altoona – Keon Broxton

Bradenton – Jose Osuna

West Virginia – JaCoby Jones

Jamestown – Kevin Krause

Bristol – Enyel Vallejo

GCL Pirates – Carlos Munoz

August

Overall – Keon Broxton

Indianapolis – Andrew Lambo

Altoona – Keon Broxton

Bradenton – Jose Osuna

West Virginia – Austin Meadows

Jamestown – Chase Simpson

Bristol – Danny Arribas

GCL Pirates – Henrry Rosario

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4 COMMENTS

  1. Not trying to diminish what Bell accomplished this season, but his numbers this year wouldn’t have warranted a Player of the Year award in any of the last 3 seasons. Down year for Pirates prospects position players?

  2. Splits in A:
    VRHP: 342/397/504
    vLHP: 320/353/495

    In AA
    VRHP: 280/333/280
    VLHP: 295/354/341

    Pretty awesome splits and very much balanced. Could have monster power in PNC batting left. Hope they take it slow with him and give him time to have a great year in AA next year. A mid 2016 arrival would be perfect.

    • He only had 9 homers all year, so I don’t know if I see the monster power, but he should be a high average/doubles guy. Kind of like a switch-hitting Jay Hay.

  3. Shouldn’t that say 2014 Minor League Player of the Year, not Pitcher of the year? (And same thing with the months?)

Comments are closed.