The Scottsdale Scorpions played Monday afternoon with just one Pittsburgh Pirates player in the starting lineup. Josh Bell got the start at first base, as Scottsdale won 6-2 over Surprise, moving them to 9-9 on the season with 14 games left.
Shortly before the game started, Bell was named to the Arizona Fall Leagues Fall-Stars game. Catcher Elias Diaz and pitcher Adrian Sampson will also represent the Pirates in the game. It will be shown on MLB Network at 8PM EST on Saturday.
In Monday’s game, Bell came up in the first inning with two men on and one out. He struck out swinging on three pitches. In the third inning, Bell drew a two-out walk. In the sixth, he led off the inning with a ground out to first base. In the eighth inning, Bell popped out to second base, leaving him 0-for-3 with a walk. In the field, he handled all 12 chances cleanly, including a ground ball and a bunt play in the fourth inning.
Bell has really struggled on offense in the AFL and that could be due to playing a new position. He is concentrating on learning the nuances of first base and has committed four errors in the process, plus he’s had a tough time on some other plays. There is also some concern that he won’t be the power-hitter the Pirates hoped for in the middle of their lineup.
His lack of home runs, which extends back into the regular season, might be due to his hitting style. Right now, Bell is more of a line drive hitter that uses the middle of the field. He is a player that people expect 30-35 home run seasons from due to his size and ability to square pitches up, but he could end up being a high average player with plenty of doubles and a lower home run total if he doesn’t add loft to his swing. That wouldn’t exactly be a bad thing, just not what was expected. Counting his time in the AFL, he has gone 256 plate appearances without a home run, which dates back to his time in Bradenton.
As for his time in the AFL, I wouldn’t be worried about the low average/power numbers. Besides learning the new position, he has made consistent contact, with just six strikeouts. It’s also a very small sample size and if a couple extra hits dropped in, his numbers would look fine. Bell is still on track to be a solid hitter in the middle of the Pirates lineup for years to come. Due to the new position, he isn’t on a fast track to the majors, so a mid-2016 estimate seems like a safe bet.
Thomas Harlan gets the start Tuesday afternoon on the road. He gave up five runs in one inning during his last start.