The Pittsburgh Pirates have promoted  first baseman Josh Bell to Indianapolis following Friday’s game. In 95 games for Altoona, Bell has a .310/.379/.431 slash line. He has 17 doubles, six triples, five homers and an impressive 44:48 BB/SO ratio. He switched to first base last fall, getting his first action at the position in the Instructional League and then in the Arizona Fall League. The results haven’t been great this year with 13 errors, but he has shown improvements over the season.

A the plate, the 22-year-old switch-hitter has done much better from the left side, with an .868 OPS, while his .643 OPS from the right side is due more to a contact-based swing that has very little power, but still produces a decent average. He hasn’t homered off a left-handed pitcher since June 10,2014. Bell has also hit much better on the road, with an .888 OPS away from Altoona, versus a .703 OPS at home.

Bell will get a chance to get acclimated to AAA for five weeks, where he will almost certainly begin next season. If all goes well, expect him to be in Pittsburgh by next June.

Relief pitcher Jeremy Bleich has also been promoted from Altoona to Indianapolis. The 28-year-old lefty has a 3.25 ERA in 36 innings.

UPDATE 12:07 AM: Thoughts from Sean McCool…

The timing of the promotion is a little surprising to me, as Bell is 3-for-21 in his last six games (.143 average), but the Pirates haven’t been afraid to promote players after slumping some at their former level (ie. JaCoby Jones promotion). Bell has been working on some mechanical changes in his swing from both the left and the right side, and it seems like the changes are still fluid at this time. At first, Bell was saying that his swing from the left mirrored the one on the right; however, that hasn’t been the case in this recent home series. Otherwise, he has continued to show his fantastic hand-eye coordination and bat speed, and the bat should play well in Triple-A Indianapolis after some adjusting to the level.

From the field, Josh Bell from July 31st is completely different that Josh Bell from the beginning of April. His defense in April was an atrocity. He has since improved tremendously, but he still has a long way to go. He has worked a myriad of times with Kevin Young, and it shows. Bell really just needs to continue to take reps at the position to show more poise and comfort. Reuniting with Gift Ngoepe may be a blessing in disguise for Bell, as he has expressed time and time again that Gift has vastly helped him in the field.

Hopefully, the change in swings can help Bell with his power stroke, a major concern as this season progressed. From the field, I believe that the longer he remains at first base, the better he will become. It will just take time. Don’t expect a September call up to the majors from Bell, as he isn’t ready for that. Hopefully, he will perform well and be ready for a June 2016 promotion to the big leagues.

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39 COMMENTS

  1. John what would it take to pry Freeman from Atlanta & would you give it up. My guess is Locke, Taillon & Bell

    • This kid has tools, intelligence and maturity. It does bother me that they are trying to force him into the first baseman role just because we have a need there. I would rather see us trade prospects at an overstocked position for first basemen than force a talented player to play a position he is clearly not comfortable at. Remember, for Travis Snider we got the two needed lefties who are doing well. We have outfield, pitching and middle infield prospect strength. We appear to be set at catcher. Go get one or more true first basemen this winter…………this player is too good to screw up.

  2. Glad to see both Bell and Glasnow now one step away. Next year’s AAA team is gonna have Glasnow, Bell, Hanson, Taillon, and Kingham. Although some of those guys may be up by the time Kingham comes back. How many AAA teams have had 5 top 100 prospects at the same time?

    • Its absurd how much talent that team will have. If all were to play at that level the entire year, they theoretically could enter the second half with Bell-Hanson-Glasnow-Taillon-Kingham-Cumpton.

          • Actually, how they handle that will be interesting. Stewart is not a FA after this year, and starting the clock on Diaz while being a backup might be sub optimal. 2017 sees Cervelli leave, so keeping Diaz down has some merit.

            The team could have Diaz in AAA much of the year as quality depth, save some service time, and he’s OD starter 2017.

    • The 2016 post-Super Two promotions we can expect to see:

      Taillon
      Glasnow
      Bell
      Hanson
      Diaz

      Walker, Kang and Harrison may block Hanson while Stewart may block Diaz. So they may continue to work on their games in Indianapolis. No one will block Glasnow and Taillon. And it would take a franchise altering trade to block Bell. This is the kind of trade the Pirates do not make. So, Bell will arrive in Pittsburgh whenever he is ready to take the job. The same applies to Glasnow amnd Taillon.

      The 2016 mid-season rotation could look like this:

      Cole (#1-type starter)
      Liriano (#2/3-type starter)
      Taillon (#1/2-type starter)
      Glasnow (#1/2-type starter)
      Morton (#3/4/5-type starter)

      As for Morton’s imprecise grade, who knows which version of Ground Chuck™ will appear next year. At his best, Morton has two plus pitches and acceptable command. That is a good description of a #3 starter.

      That is a strong and mostly young rotation. Yet I would like to see the Pirates augment that staff by trading for a young, high-ceiling left handed starter. But that is just wishful thinking. We ought to be happy with what we have.

        • No way Kang will be going back to bench anytime soon. Mercer may be turned into utility IF when he returns.

      • The future rotation is reason to celebrate for sure, but in reality, can’t expect Taillon and Glasnow to come up and pitch like an Ace right away.

        • You may be right. But, Glasnow has never had the ‘easy to hit’ problems that have plagued Cole and Taillon and Taillon has better mechanics now than he had before his surgery. I suspect his ‘easy to hit’ problem will be something he has already put behind him.

          They may surpass Cole’s early work. I’d be unsurprised if they do.

        • The neat thing about that is, you may not need either of them to do so. Cole continues doing what he is doing, you have your ace. Liriano stays healthy, fine number 2. Meaning really as long as those two are mid rotation like quickly after the promotion the rotation is quality.

            • Yup. promote all the young guys and have them all be mid rotation right away. None of them might struggle in their first month, and i mean who really needs them next year until mid to late July, right?

        • They won’t pay his arb salary with his awful defense and streaky hitting. Morse has a very good shot at being the small side of a platoon next year, at least to begin the season. If Lambo’s foot doesn’t fall off, he will probably start the year as the big half of the platoon. With all the missed time he has had this year, winter ball is probably in his future. A good showing there could go a long way in determining if he will indeed begin the year as the primary 1B.

    • Probably not since he’s new to first. That being said it’s exciting to see our future first baseman take the next step!

      • Since Morse is our RH hitting 1B, it would not make sense to pull Bell up as our RH reserve, except that I think Bell is probably the better defensive player than Morse at any position. How etched in NH’s mind is that throw from Alvarez to second base the other night for his 16th error? This team is geared to only one goal at this point, and I would never say never to either Bell or Glasnow.

        For the record, Bell has played 96 games in AA this year with 13 errors, with only one error since June 26th. Playing at AAA with Florimon, Ngoepe, and Hanson (only 7 errors this season at 2B), will help Bell defensively.

        • Bell is not as good defensively as Morse. Morse’s first position in MLB was SS. He wasn’t good there, but it says something about his ability to field ground balls that he made it that far at that position. He is not a great 1B but he is adequate. Bell at this point is not adequate.

        • There is a difference between errors and baseball sense. I don’t judge Bell’s first base production by errors, only because there is so much more that occurs at first base. Honestly, Pedro looked much more comfortable at the position, yet he was booting balls and missing pickoff throws.

          Bell is learning how to be an infielder, first, and learning how to play the first base position, second. It is coming, but there is still a lot of development left to do. Mind you, he played 71 games with Gift in Altoona, and Max Moroff has looked great defensively at second base.

      • John, he runs like a deer or maybe faster.
        I would think it would be nice just to have
        that speed in case we would need it.

        • Are you talking about Bell? If so, he doesn’t run like a deer anymore. With the knee problems and offseason muscle weight, he is definitely not as quick as he used to be.

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