Josh Bell Homers in Futures Game, Diaz Takes Pride in Representing Pirates

After looking a bit over-matched during his first at-bat in a strikeout against Marlins left-handed prospect Jarlin Garcia, Josh Bell certainly showed the power potential that he has in his second at-bat.

Bell, who has shown much more power from the left side of the dish, hammered a 1-0 fastball off Edwin Diaz of the Mariners over the right-center field wall for a 388-foot two-run homer in the fourth inning of the All-Star Futures game in Cincinnati.

“[The pitch on the home run] was a sinker,” Bell said. “He threw a ball for the first pitch. I was ready to swing, got my pitch, and drove it. It was an awesome experience and is one of those things that you cross your fingers to hit a home run and I was blessed to do it in that situation.”

In addition, Bell made a nice backhand scoop on a low throw to first base earlier in the game, as he showed the development of his game as a whole. Bell listed playing a solid defensive game at first base as one of his goals for the contest prior to the first pitch. With the play, and wrapping up a few double plays, he did just that in the nationally televised event.

“I feel like that is one of my stronger suits [defensively at first base],” Bell said. “I have been working at picking the ball over there since day one of Spring Training. That is definitely in my back pocket. The comfort and the reps are there [defensively], I am just trying to get better every day.”

Defense is one of the aspects that has been keeping Bell from a Triple-A promotion, as Sean McCool pointed out in a recent article. Bell also had a bit of a tough June, but has still hit .312 this season, with an .811 OPS and four home runs. The power portion is still a work in progress, but he projects well in that department.

Bell also thinks that the power is the last part of his offensive game before he becomes a complete hitter.

As for his experience at the Futures Game, it was Bell’s second go around. After playing in last year’s contest in Minnesota, Bell came back as the elder statesman and was just looking to fully enjoy the experience.

“I just try to soak it all in,” Bell said. “I am here with a great group of guys and I just want to get a win for the USA, while still having as much fun as possible.”

Elias Diaz was the other Pirates’ prospect in the contest and he entered as a defensive replacement in the bottom of the sixth inning. He got his first at-bat in the seventh inning, but flew out to left after dealing with some overpowering fastballs from Sean Newcomb of the Angels.

In his second at bat, Diaz fell behind 1-2 after being badly fooled on a breaking ball from Colin Rea, but fought back to run the count full. However, he grounded out softly to second on a 93 mile per hour inside fastball.

For Diaz, being named to the team was followed by a sense of pride. He also thinks that it is a stepping stone for his ultimate goal.

“I am really excited to represent the Pirates and my country of Venezuela,” Diaz said. “It feels great. This was one of my goals for this year. It just that much closer to making my dream a reality. It helps me want to go to the next goal and get better every day.”

For Diaz, unlike Bell, this was his first time in a big league park and seeing the third deck in the stands. While this was the case, Diaz was not looking to feel the nerves in the contest.

“This is my first time [playing in a Major League stadium],” Diaz said. “Even with the size of the park, what we have to do is the same. I just go play and be the same guy that I can be.”

The experience of coming to the Futures Game is something that Diaz said that he will always remember. He was also pleased to have had the opportunity to meet so many other ballplayers that he shared the clubhouse with.

“I have gotten to spend some time with different guys from different countries,” Diaz said. “I have also met some guys from Venezuela, and I have really enjoyed the time.”

While Bell clearly stole the show, both players showed why they are among the top prospects in baseball.

  • buccotime57
    July 13, 2015 2:15 pm

    I attended the games and during bp bell put a show on from the left.side

  • What some of us have been saying all year, via Baseball Prospectus:

    “This assault on the World team carried over into game action, where Josh Bell opened some eyes. Tall and resigned to the corners on defense, more power has always been projected for the Pirate. What used to be a set up with a wide stance and an approach designed more towards contact has been replaced with a larger load from both sides, helping to generate more power. He showed this in BP, but it was its in-game translation in the form of a home run to right-center field that showed promise for future production.”

    I’m certain he’ll change twelve more times before actually making the show, but a swing change of this magnitude is exactly why you keep a prospect like him at a level when the overall numbers say to advance him.

    • I have always been a “let them leave on a high note” type of coach. Bell has had an excellent year so far, but coming back to earth a little in July. Since I already expect a break-in period in AAA, why not capitalize on this positive moment and move him up right now?

      • For me, two reasons:

        1. In all practical reality, the moment you promote a top prospect to AAA is the moment the clock starts ticking until his call-up. You can make ideological arguments about being able to give him even more at bats in AAA and not actually speed his eventual call up in the end, but it just doesn’t work that way for top prospects. As long as he hits reasonably well the pressure will start mounting as soon as he hits Indy. That matters because…
        2. He has very real flaws that absolutely could use the benefit of lower competition to work out. The defense, while improving, is still awful by Major League standards; that fact gets sugar-coated, rightfully so, when talking about a newly converted outfielder in AA but becomes a very real issue when talking about a potential starting big leaguer in a matter of 12 months, as some would like to see. He’ll be exposed against good LHP, the kind you see in Major League Baseball. Still needs reps to figure out swing and approach against them. Finally, a major swing overhaul like the one he just made should be given time to play before adding additional complexity.

  • Bell had a fine interview after his home run. He is a personality player. He and his Altoona teammate Tyler Glasnow will be on the Pirate 40 man the second half of 2016.

    • Walton: Good call; he is very well spoken, humble, and driven. If it was the MLB interview, was that Jenifer Langosch interviewing him? She wrote the article, and was the MLB beat writer for the Pirates before she was transferred to St. Louis 2 or 3 years ago. She was always a good read.

    • And he is like that all the time, not just in National interviews.

  • That was a no doubt bomb. Won’t be long before he’s ringin’ the bell in the burgh.

  • Ironic that Bell is pictured above whiffing after dropping that bomb today. Is this a play on his righty swing or unintentional?

  • Trade both of them for someone named Martinez!

  • Bell’s swing on that home run looked gorgeous…effortless. I cannot imagine, just by looking at that one swing, that he would have struggled at all with power. I see the reason for the power projections too.

    • Agree, but he looked awful from the right side.

      • You guys obviously were able to watch the game – was his defense as good as described?

        • I mean it was really just that scoop, which was nice.

        • emjay : I didn’t see one pitcher in that game that even came close to what I have seen out of Glasnow, particularly in Friday night’s game.

      • Awkward lee, it hasn’t seemed to me to have improved much so far this season.

        • He won’t strike out as much and he wears his hat correctly so maybe that’ll be enough to satiate folks, but otherwise I think the early part of Bell’s career will be a lot of the same we’re seeing in Pittsburgh this year; decent bat against RHP with poor defense and very little production against same-handed pitching.

        • leo: This is the first year where his stats have been considerably better from the left side, even though he is still hitting .264 from the right. In 2013 and 2014, he was equal and possibly even better from the right side. He was always seen as a natural hitter, and maybe he will never fit the mold from the right side.