Josh Bell got off to a great start in Indianapolis last year after his promotion, hitting for a .347/.441/.504 line in August and early September, and winning our Player of the Month award last August, not just for Indianapolis, but for the entire system. This season, he picked up where he left off, hitting for a .312/.411/.519 line in 90 plate appearances, which was good enough to not only be our Indianapolis Player of the Month for April, but our Player of the Month for the entire system.
Bell’s start in Triple-A is as good as you could hope for. In 235 plate appearances since last August, he has a .333/.430/.510 line and five homers. The most impressive thing is the increase in power. Over two seasons and 528 plate appearances with Altoona, Bell had five homers and a .100 ISO. He’s matched the home run production in less than half the plate appearances in Triple-A, along with an ISO of .177. So far this year, his ISO is more than double his career total in Altoona.
A big reason for the power increase is a change in Bell’s swing last year, adding a big leg kick, and then evolving that swing to the point where it was more comfortable for him. By the end of the season, he got to a point where he was comfortable, and it started showing results. He came into Spring Training looking smooth from both sides of the plate, and it looked like he was ready to see an increase in his power production this year. He’s now starting to show that power increase.
One of the most encouraging signs is that his production from the right side has been almost equally as strong as production from the left side. He has a .933 OPS from the left side this year, while the right side is seeing a .919 OPS in a smaller sample. He gets to each result in different ways. The left side features more power (.236 ISO vs .137), while the right side features a higher OBP (.464 vs .387). That said, it’s a huge improvement over last year, when he had a .632 OPS, a .323 OBP, and a .035 ISO from the right side between Altoona and Indianapolis.
As I wrote last week, if Bell continues this production throughout the season, he’s going to create a very good problem for the Pirates. That said, I talked to Neal Huntington, who said that Bell could benefit from John Jaso blocking him at the big league level, getting plenty of at-bats in the minors so that he’s absolutely ready when he eventually makes that jump to the majors.
PLAYERS OF THE MONTH BY LEVEL
Indianapolis – Josh Bell, 1B (.312/.411/.519, 90 PA, 3 HR)
Altoona – Erich Weiss, 2B (.294/.407/.471, 82 PA, 1 HR)
Bradenton – Kevin Newman, SS (.360/.417/.453, 85 PA, 1 HR)
West Virginia – Tito Polo, OF (.288/.350/.452, 81 PA, 2 HR)