Josh Bell is the Pirates Prospects 2015 Minor League Player of the Year

For the second year in a row, Josh Bell has been named the Pirates Prospects Minor League Player of the Year. Bell wrapped up a season where he combined for a .317/.393/.446 line in 572 plate appearances between Altoona and Indianapolis. His OPS ranked first of all Pirates minor league hitters with 350+ plate appearances. He also ranked second in average, first in OBP, and second in slugging in that same group. He finished seventh in the system in doubles (24), third in triples (9), and second in total bases (218).

Bell spent the 2015 season learning a new position, switching to first base in order to secure a future spot in the majors with the Pirates. He struggled with his defense throughout the year, but slowly started looking more comfortable at the position. By the end of the year he didn’t look like a guy who was ready for the majors from a defensive standpoint, but a guy who looked like he could actually play the first base position at some point in the future.

Despite the focus on defense, Bell didn’t see his offensive numbers drop. In fact, there was a specific developmental focus in that area as well. He was hitting for average and getting on base in Altoona, but wasn’t showing much power, with a .120 ISO. The Pirates had him experimenting with a leg kick in order to generate more power. He was eventually promoted to Triple-A, and made an adjustment to the leg kick which started generating more results. While with Indianapolis, he exploded for a .347/.441/.504 line in 145 plate appearances, showing an improvement with a .157 ISO. His power could still use some improvements, as anyone who has seen him take batting practice can see there’s more untapped power there. For now, he’s heading in the right direction with the bat.

Bell should return to Indianapolis next season, and could be in the majors by the middle of the year if he continues making positive strides with his defense at first base and his ability to hit for power.

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 2015 monthly awards.

Previous Pirates Prospects Minor League Players of the Year

2014 – Josh Bell

2013 – Andrew Lambo

2012 – Gregory Polanco

2011 – Starling Marte

2015 Pirates Prospects Minor League Players of the Year By Level

Indianapolis – Keon Broxton, OF (.256/.352/.423, 7 HR, 367 PA)

Altoona – Max Moroff, 2B (.293/.374/.409, 7 HR, 612 PA)

Bradenton – Austin Meadows, OF (.307/.357/.407, 7 HR, 556 PA)

West Virginia – Jordan Luplow, 3B (.264/.366/.464, 12 HR, 465 PA)

Morgantown – Logan Hill, OF (.297/.402/.479, 7 HR, 261 PA)

Bristol – Carlos Munoz, 1B (.325/.427/.587, 11 HR, 249 PA)

GCL Pirates – Ke’Bryan Hayes, 3B (.333/.434/.375, 0 HR, 175 PA)

2015 Pirates Prospects Player of the Month Awards

April

Overall – Deibinson Romero

Indianapolis – Deibinson Romero

Altoona – Josh Bell

Bradenton – Jin-De Jhang

West Virginia – Chase Simpson

May

Overall – Alen Hanson

Indianapolis – Alen Hanson

Altoona – Josh Bell

Bradenton – Austin Meadows

West Virginia – Michael Suchy

June

Overall – Adam Frazier

Indianapolis – Brent Morel

Altoona – Adam Frazier

Bradenton – Harold Ramirez

West Virginia – Michael Suchy

July

Overall – Carlos Munoz

Indianapolis – Keon Broxton

Altoona – Dan Gamache

Bradenton – Harold Ramirez

West Virginia – Jordan Luplow

Morgantown – Logan Hill

Bristol – Carlos Munoz

GCL Pirates – Ke’Bryan Hayes

August

Overall – Josh Bell

Indianapolis – Josh Bell

Altoona – Mel Rojas Jr.

Bradenton – Wyatt Mathisen

West Virginia – Pablo Reyes

Morgantown – Mitchell Tolman

Bristol – Nick Buckner

GCL Pirates – Edison Lantigua

  • Bell might be the position player of the year, but I think the best development of the year among that group had to be Meadows. He was still something of an unknown because of the time missed with the hammy last year, but he played all year without issue and hit like a machine. The power also saw a jump as soon as he got out of the FSL, another very encouraging sign. He’s got star written all over him. I still can’t believe he fell to the Bucs at #9 overall.

    • Totally agree. I’d like to know if he would have been next up behind Bell. If so, how close was it? For that matter, I’d like to know how this honor is even determined…I demand transparency!

      • I’m not sure how close Meadows was. I ask everyone for their picks and then we have a discussion to debate those picks. In this case, everyone picked Bell, so there wasn’t much of a debate.

        It might have been a lot closer if Bell didn’t have his success in Triple-A at the end of the year. I think that’s what sealed the deal.

    • I am of the standing that Marte should be traded to make room for Meadows when he is ready. Marte’s contract could fetch a huge ransom and I am confident that Meadows has the potential to be better than Cutch, Polanco, and Marte.

      • Yikes, that would be a major move. I don’t think I’d have the cajones to suggest that.

        • I would. Marte is gonna be solid player in this league. He’s one of the 20 or 30 best outfielders. He may even have a few .300/.350/.450 seasons with 20+ homers and 30+SB but he’ll never come close to matching Cutch. I also think by this time next year, Marte is our 3rd best OF. Meadows has the potential to be one of the 5 or 10 best players in the sports. Everything out there I’ve read about sees superstar potential. Keith Law even stated that out of an player in the minors that Meadows has the potential to have a Mike Trout like breakout. That fact that there is so little hype regarding Meadows is a testament to how deep the farm system and how good the Bucs major league OF is. I also don’t think he’s gonna struggle with his confidence like Polanco did.

      • Interesting. I think Polanco would be who I would consider trading. He looks very spotty at times and if that continues he may not be who we are expecting him to develop into. Marte looks like the real deal.

        • Polanco has a better batting eye and a higher ceiling. Marte K’s too much and is very streaky. I think Polanco’s age 25 and 26 seasons will be superior to Marte’s.

          • Then again, I could be wrong.

          • It’ll come down to power.

            Polanco is an excellent case study for the guys on here who are fine with the line drive, gap hitters. The success guys with those skills have in the minors just does not usually translate fully to the major leagues. Few more strikeouts, few less walks, little less BABIP and you’re left with what Polanco is right now, which is roughly an average hitter.

            Polanco will need to boost his power to at least big league average levels to become appreciably more than an average (2 WAR) big league outfielder.

            • I’m fine with a line drive, gap hitter if he can hit over .300. Polanco is only hitting .257. Although, he is hitting .281/.331/.434 in the second half. It’s amazing Polanco doesn’t show more power considering none of his homers are cheapies. He hits the ball a mile.

      • Marte? Nah, Cutch.

        If Meadows is ready mid-2017, and Cutch is still one of the top players in the game, it would make no sense to keep him. He’d bring in just about any organizations top two prospects and, probably, at least, one more from the top 15.

        Trading Marte with 4.5 years of control left at less than $10M per would be crazy.

        • This always gets me fried with my friends, but I would also trade Cutch-HAVE to keep the pipeline coming.

          • Your friends don’t understand the unfortunate economics of the day.

            This isn’t the Clemente or Stargell era. Low-budget teams don’t get to keep a player for 15 years. Extending Cutch tomorrow, at fair market value, would cost 10/275. Getting him when his contract ends would be 7/170.

            If Huntington guarantees close to $200 million to a 32 year old outfielder…regardless of who it is…he should be publicly whipped. The Dodgers, Yankees, and a few other teams can afford that leap, the Pirates can’t.

            As painful and embarrassing as it is, yeah, move him. That’s how small market teams have to work.

            All things being equal, you plug Meadows in, and you get the best return possible for Cutch. You don’t rebuild, you reload.

            The Bucs have moved past the point where they can draft high and get top talent. Now they have to work with the talent they have, move it where they can, and try to make incremental gains through trades.

        • Cutch is one way to being the first OF since Mickey Mantle to hit .300/.400/.500 4 years in a row. Marte is good but he’s nowhere near as good as Cutch and he’s not the face of the franchise. Marte relies on high BABIP for his success. Cutch doesn’t. I know everyone doubts it but I am holding out hope that the Bucs lock up Cutch for the rest of his career.

          • I’m not denying, at all, that Cutch is awesome.

            But small market teams aren’t going to remain competitive by paying players for past performance during their decline years.

            At the trading deadline of 2017, he’ll have just turned 31 and the Pirates will have had seven seasons of his services for $43 million. You really can’t ask for better than that, but, all things being equal, it will be foolish not to sell high.

            And, trust me, if Marte maintains his hotness, I’ll be saying the Bucs need to do the same with him at the deadline in 2020.

            So long as this team keeps winning, it won’t have the luxury of drafting in the top-third of rounds. Strategies have to change and the team needs to be able to part with about-to-be-too-expensive talent to replenish the farm system.

    • I’ve been saying Cutch is the one you trade in 2 years & been getting roasted by my friends also. You add defense to the equation & the gap shrinks significantly.

  • Pirates best developing hitters all are line drive, gap hitters. I know chicks dig the long ball, but I am in favor of high on base guys like Bell and Meadows.

    • Agreed. I’d say the Cardinals have done okay with this approach.

      • I think you’re offense will do okay if every guy in the lineup hits .300+ regardless of the power output.

        • Which is also exactly the argument for having power hitters, considering you’re most certainly not going to get all or even half your lineup hitting .300.

          • Having too many swing and miss power guys, like Pedro for example, and the offense becomes very streaky. Maybe the solution is to encourage Bell and Meadows to put more lift in their swings to produce more HR’s.

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