INDIANAPOLIS — Since earning his promotion to Triple-A at the beginning of the month, it has not taken Josh Bell long to develop into a strong hitter at the level.
After a slow start where he went 1-for-17 in his first four games, Bell hit his stride in the past 13 games at the level. In those contests, Bell has a hit in 11 games, with six multi-hit efforts. The power has also followed, as in the span, he has added five doubles, a triple, and a home run.
Bell credits the success to sticking to his approach in games and the hard work that he has put in with Indianapolis hitting coach Butch Wynegar.
“I just feel like I am trying to put the ball in play when I can, as hard as I can in each at-bat,” Bell said. “I giving myself a good chance to do that by trusting my two strike approach. I continue to work with [Indianapolis hitting coach] Butch [Wynegar] every day and it is working right now.”
Along with this work with Wynegar, the two found an adjustment to be made with the leg kick that he recently added in Altoona to his swing from each side of the plate.
“We made an adjustment to his leg kick,” Wynegar said. “It is something that he started doing in Altoona and I didn’t like it when he first got here. I talked to our hitting coordinator and I didn’t like the way that he was going about doing it. I was told that they wanted him to keep the leg kick.”
Wynegar said that after explaining his side, they were able to make some minor adjustments and the results have followed.
“He was getting beat and he was struggling in BP and everything,” Wynegar said. “He wanted to can it and go back. I explained to him that they wanted him to keep it, but we can work on doing it another way. He is such a great kid, that I can tell him to stand on his head and he would try it. He has made those adjustments and is giving himself a really good chance to hit now.”
As for the adjustment itself, Wynegar said that it comes down to timing. He said that giving examples of other big league hitters with a similar look allowed Bell to get a visual of what he needs to do.
“It was more of a shortening thing,” Wynegar said. “He was really lifting it high and getting way back over his back leg. I explained to him, that when you watch Jose Bautista, Josh Donaldson, or a guy who has a leg kick, they don’t get back over their back leg, they get back into it. It is an up and a drive into the ball now. When he first got here, he was up and hanging there, struggling to get back down. It was a real timing issue.”
Wynegar said that he explained to Bell why a big league hitter digs in. He said that when they do this, in addition to getting a better traction, they also step on the back side of the hole to keep their knee inside their back leg. With this, Wynegar and Bell have been working with an object under his back foot to simulate this. This showed Bell the importance of not getting back over his back leg.
Bell also uses the leg kick on each side of the plate, being a switch hitter. While he clearly has more power on the left side of the plate, the hits have come from the right side as well in the small Triple-A sample size.
Though there is a huge split in OPS from the left to right side of the plate, the average is not as separated. From the right side, he is hitting a solid .286 in 21 at-bats. From the left side, he is hitting .326 in 43 at-bats.
The contact is coming from both sides of the plate, it is just more firm from the left side. However, Bell said that the work put in has him comfortable both ways.
“I feel good [from both sides of the plate],” Bell said. “It is just a work in progress every day. I need to get reps in to be prepared for the starters and the relievers. If I can get some solid work in, I feel comfortable from both sides.”
Another season-long adjustment that Bell is looking to continue in Indianapolis is his position change to first base.
Bell still has some minor hiccups, like Tuesday night when he got caught in between going to the bag and making a throw to try to start a double play. Bell made the right decision not to throw to second, but the delay also cost the out at first on a speedy runner.
These mistakes have been few and far between. He has also made several strong pickups and his footwork appears to have improved tremendously over there. Bell has seen the drastic developments to his defense as well.
“I feel great [at first base],” Bell said. “Compared to the start last year, I have made some serious strides. The game is coming to me over there. I still have a lot of work to do, as we all do, but I continue to work hard every day and I am seeing those results.”
Bell also said that he is excited to be on a first place team and to get some playoff experience under his belt. The playoff experience and making the adjustments so quickly to Indianapolis are huge going into next season for Bell.
It is hard to envision Bell getting the call before June of 2016, based on the fact that he is still so raw at this point. However, he is clearly advanced well beyond his years with his approach, and is starting to show some positive signs in a small sample size in Triple-A. Bell has the look of a potential special player as a hitter, and the best way to reach his upside is the hard work and experience that he is getting working with Wynegar in Indianapolis.
Ryan has been following Indianapolis baseball for most of his life, and the Pirates since they became the affiliate in 2005. He began writing for Pirates Prospects in 2013, in a stint that ran through 2016 (with no service time manipulation played in). Ryan rejoined the team in 2022, covering Indianapolis once again. He has covered the Pirates in four different big league stadiums. Ryan was also fortunate enough to cover the 2015 Futures Game in Cincinnati.
I hope they further change his swing with a back leg kick as well. I don’t think anyone has tried that yet.
I don’t think he’s raw at all. When I think raw, I think bad plate judgment and overall inexperience. He’s 23 and walks more than he strikes out. Either way, he is coming on strong. Bleacher Report posted an article about impactful rookies for 2016 and Bell and Glasnow made the top 5. I think next year is the first year that Huntington’s draft really start bearing fruit.
I think the team will be better next year, at least talent-wise, than it is this year. And the team is really good this year. But replacing Burnett and Locke in the rotation with Taillon and Glasnow should be an upgrade, replacing Pedro at first with Bell will almost certainly be an upgrade, and I imagine Hanson will make up the difference between he and Walker offensively with his glove. (Or Harrison, as the case may be.) The core will still be here, too.
I think it might be setting yourself up for disappointment if you assume Taillon is a replacement of anyone next year. As in, its certainly possible but he also could not be up until August and thus you rely on someone else for a large chunk of the season.
I think its fair to expect one of Glasnow/Taillon to take over come June, but both might be wishful thinking. I seriously doubt Locke is gone due to the low price he’ll consume. He’s at least a useful option for 1-2 months until a decision is made on the young arms.
Cole-Liriano-FA-Morton-Locke until someone gets called up near June.
there will be a lot of growing pains, however, but yes next year’s team, based on talent alone, should be exceptional. Don’t forget Kingham either when discussing next season
In terms of power, he’s very raw. There is a ton of potential there, and it hasn’t really shown up in the stats. The defense at first base is improving, but is also raw. He’s a good hitter with good plate patience, but in terms of his total upside, he’s not close yet.
That’s a good way of putting it. Normally when guys are described as raw, they hit a lot of homers but strike out alot.
Yeah, this is one of those cases where it’s the exact opposite.
I am hoping he is the next Eddie Murray at the plate. It’s been so long since they’ve had a good 1B for any extended period.
Good comparison being that Murray was a switch hitter, albeit a lofty one!
Bell and Pedro took up 1B not too far apart. Bell .987 fld pct & Pedro .981. Bell at 1.000 since promotion. Fielding % dubious way to judge fielders but for a young one at least we know he is improving and isn’t a trainwreck with the glove. If you have a switch-hitter that gives you 50+ XBH and .800+ OPS every year a -1.0 defensive WAR isn’t a big worry. Pedro’s D-WAR right now is -1.8.
Very lofty for sure but Murray wasn’t a slugger per se. A lot of line drives and he walked and kept his strikeouts down. Murray wasn’t a great fielder but he was ok. Actually won some gold gloves he probably didn’t deserve but if Bell can be at least as good as Murray in the field I’d be really happy. Hell, if Bell put up half of Murray’s career production he’d be the Pirates best 1B in 30 years or more.
Amen. I also hope hit can hit 4th.
Even if bell doesn’t develop 20+ hr power he is a complete hitter. He will be a doubles machine and walk 60-70 times a year. I think he is as low-risk of a hitting prospect as there is right now in the minors. A, A+, AA, and now it seems AAA has not phased him. He’s handles them all after making adjustments at all of them. Smart, talented hitter.
Thanks Ryan, really good stuff.
Do you see Bell playing any sort of winter ball?
It’s certainly possible, but nothing has been mentioned yet. He may just get more reps through the Fall Instructional League and then he will be one of the players invited to Major League Spring Training, so he will get an early start. Probably see him at winter mini-camp too just as a refresher in the off-season. It looks like Indy will have playoff baseball, so there’s some extra games too.
Good one. I’d like to see him get more reps at 1st if anything.
Be nice to get him some time off though. It’d be a long 2 years if he went regular season+playoffs+winter ball+spring training+season. Downtime can be huge.