INDIANAPOLIS — He’s not the first and probably won’t be the last.

Josh Bell, by his standards, has struggled since returning to Indianapolis after his brief promotion to the Pirates.

The same has happened to others, as well. Alen Hanson tried to hit for too much power after his brief call-up in mid-May, while Wilfredo Boscan pretty much fell apart when he returned from Pittsburgh for the third and final time.

Bell now falls into that group who have struggled after being sent back down after making their major league debut. Now, the struggles of Bell come with one big caveat: he’s still putting up numbers about half of the Indianapolis lineup wishes they had. But by his standards set earlier this season his production has slipped.

In 18 games since returning to Triple-A, Bell has a slash line of .242/.356/.274, compared to .324/.407/.535 prior to his promotion. He has no home runs since returning, compared to 13 home runs in 83 games prior to his promotion.

“I think he’s lost his patience a little bit at the plate,” Treanor said. “He’s swinging at pitches now that he really wasn’t before.”

Treanor said Bell has slid somewhat into “the trap” that gets many young players. Especially with what Bell did in Pittsburgh.

His first at-bat resulted in hit against Chicago’s Jake Arrieta. His second at-bat was a pinch-hit grand slam that led to a standing ovation from Pirates fans. And then he walked in his other two at-bats and Treanor labeled those “very, very good at-bats.”

“That was based on his patience and pitch selection, and knowing what he’s looking for,” Treanor said. “So, here, and this is the tough thing — you try to do even better here than what you did before. And it gets you out of who you are, gets you out of your rhythm at the plate, gets you out of your patience at the plate. He’s just not as patient as he was before.”

Bell didn’t disagree with Treanor’s assessment of his recent play.

“I feel like I’m being a little over-aggressive at times, swinging at balls out of my zone and trying to do a little bit more than I should in certain situations,” Bell said.

In many ways, a letdown should be assumed. Especially after the surreal beginning Bell had to his major league career. He went from getting a standing ovation in PNC Park to playing in front of no more than 1,967 people during a three-game series at Gwinnett.

Indianapolis does average a minor-league best 9,008 people per game and are in a division race trying to catch Columbus. But still, it’s not the same atmosphere as in the major leagues.

“Same electricity, just a little bit more [in the majors] — but maybe squared,” Bell said.

Nobody is concerned about Bell in the long-term and he’s already showing some signs of breaking out, getting a hit in four consecutive games. Once he regains his patience at the plate and the approach he used before his promotion, Bell will likely return to the form that made him a Triple Crown threat in the International League, and a guy who could push John Jaso out of the starting first base job in Pittsburgh at some point this year.

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31 COMMENTS

  1. He should have never been sent back down after what he did in the minors before the promotion and what he did in his short time in the majors. I know it’s beating a dead horse, but playing Jaso over Bell idiotic.

  2. The last sentence of the article should read, “…and a guy who SHOULD push John Jaso out of the starting first base job in Pittsburgh IMMEADIATELY!

    • No way. Save him for 2017 to 2022. That is clearly the path of maximizing Bell’s lifetime contribution to the Bucs. Kudos to the Bucs for the willingness to be patient. Wish the fans were as patient as well.

  3. His brain just probably can’t process reality anymore since he was sent down in favor of a dreaded black hole that can’t get on base.

  4. Lets get this straight, he will not come up until he is the clone of Keith Hernandez in the field. What a mess. They had pedro at first last year and the glove was made of stone but for some reason that was okay. Now they have the all world fielder in Jaso at first base meaning that Bell can not play there. I guess the Pirates will keep him in the minors until he turns 30 then get 5 mediocre years out of him and then let him go. Ask yourself, is this team as currently constructed going anywhere this year? If the answer is yes then by all means keep Bell on the farm but if they are just treading water then give the man a chance to fail or succeed.

  5. The first thing we should all keep in mind is that the people making these decisions know more about player development than we will ever, ever know, 100 times over. It doesn’t mean they can’t be wrong, but let’s not pretend we know better than they do.

    But if you buy into the idea that the front office was always going to treat 2016 as a bridge year, preparing the young guys to take over in 2017, then the last two months of player moves and non-moves start to make more sense.

    I absolutely HATE it, but it makes sense.

    I hate it because the trade deadline pickups are two demoted starters from the AL East and a lefty reliever who has great stuff and absolutely no idea where it’s going.

    I hate it because this team is in limbo, neither punting the season nor going all in for a playoff spot that is there for the taking. Limbo sucks. And honestly, bringing up Bell and Kuhl right now would fit in either approach.

    They’re just not going to accelerate or deviate from THE PLAN to win a couple extra games in 2016 if it sets the team backwards in 2017 (particularly if Bell follows Polanco’s and Pedro’s year 2 development curve).

    This sucks to watch. It absolutely sucks. And I think it’s quite possible that it might be the best thing for the 2017 team – AND 2016 is still, improbably, within reach.

    • They talked about not wanting to go after high dollar talent that would impede the progress of the kids to come up in 2016. And, following that transition plan, we went cheap on everything and now those guys who were supposed to be temporary placeholders, are now impeding the progress of the guys at AAA. Hard to make sense of that.

      Bell has to stay at AAA to learn 1B? Where did Jaso learn? Yep, he came up from ST and continued his education in Pittsburgh. Does Bell present a different set of issues that cannot be worked on in Pittsburgh? Jaso has less errors; Bell has more than 200 more chances in the same amount of games. His RF/G is around 9.90 while Jaso is around 7.70. Among qualified 1B In MLB, the 7.70 is around 18th, the 9.90 is in the Top 3.

      Yes, limbo sucks, and unless they do something in 2016, it will be like Groundhog Day (the movie) as soon as 2016 ends. I doubt that they have thrown away those lines from last year.

      One thing I liked about the article – Peloza got the point across to me that these kids are not chess pieces on a large board who would be incapable of feeling human emotions. It does not work that way, and when they go back down, they feel frustrated and overtry to get back. Yes, they should know better, but I would hate to have anyone look at decisions I made when I was 22, 23, or 24. Head games.

      That line about the Pirates brought up Pedro and Polanco too early is ridiculous and if we thought that, why are we rushing Meadows and Newman through the system? Are we going to tap the brakes on those two kids? Not likely, so quit making excuses to suit the present circumstance.

      One thing I noticed about Pedro is that he is making better contact because somebody got inside his head and told him he had to see the ball in order to hit the ball. And, he looks like he is enjoying himself. Gap to Gap.

    • The tension you are experiencing is a result of the Pirates stated intent of competing every year, and not going all in in any one year. They are making moves that stabilize there long term future, even if that fails to maximize their present ability to compete.

  6. Should have left him in the majors when he was stroking, and he was our best option anyway. This is what can happen when you jerk guys around for no reason.

  7. Brian Peloza’s quote:

    “…His first at-bat resulted in hit against Chicago’s Jake Arrieta. His
    second at-bat was a pinch-hit grand slam that led to a standing ovation
    from Pirates fans. And then he walked in his other two at-bats and
    Treanor labeled those “very, very good at-bats.”

    Why the hell wasn’t he kept in Pittsburgh after that Major League performance? Including hitting Arrieta? Shows mismanagement by Pirate managers and NH.

    .

    • I am glad that the FO has more patience than you do. They brought both Polanco and Pedro up too early and wasted their rookie seasons. I would stop asking for shiny objects and focus on continued solid development of our prospects.

      • I trust you are criticizing my comments?
        Than you criticize “FO”‘s mistakes for bringing both Polanco and Pedro up “too early”. Than you state FO has more patience then I do. You are in La La Land.
        Your last sentence sucks.

        • yes, I am criticizing your comments. 4 ABs and you declare him ready. That’s just foolish. So yes, it’s a ‘shiny object’ moment. Let me add ‘Squirrel!’

      • Bell has an entire season at AAA now, so bringing him up is not rushing him by any stretch of the imagination. He turns 24 this month. Polanco and Alvarez didn’t even spend half a season at AAA before they came up. Bringing Bell up now allows him to begin the transition to the majors and the experience will help him next year. Continuing to run Jaso out there all the time is an incredible waste of time.

        • I respectfully disagree. Time spent is not the issue. Acquiring the tools needed to be successful is the issue. His defense is not MLB ready, in the opinion of the baseball pros.

          • Nonsense. Did you see the great throw Jaso made to home today? The only reason that John Jaso is still playing first and Bell remains at Indy is because NH signed Jaso for two years.

            • I tried to vote up twice, but it does not work that way. Exactly the case – we have Jaso for another year at $4 mil. He gave us $4 mil the first two months, but is now subtracting. That is twice in the last week that he has called attention to himself in a negative manner – did not run out a play and then the throw. I asked this on another thread, but how is that not an error? Watching MLB official scorers lately, I think Bell will do just fine if all we consider is errors.

  8. Right now, there’s no reason to bring him up until September. He’s not hitting like he can, and his glove is less reliable than Jaso’s, so there’s no baseball reason to bring him up. If he had gone down and continued to hit like mad, this could be different – but he’s my go-to every day in Prospect watch, and at most, he’s getting 1 hit.

  9. Good article and thanks author, Brian Peloza, for that, appreciated…… I’m not worried about his hitting, wake me up when his glove can maintain a position at the MLB level.. Until then, not much to discuss, except the aforementioned glove… IMHO

  10. At this point in the season, they probably won’t bring him up until September and he may only get a couple spot starts, then he’ll get a lot of work in spring training as jaso did and take over first base at the start of next season, just trying to think like the pirates f.o.

    • When he stops being a defensive liability then yeah sure bring him up. i want him down there working on it. There’s no reason to bring him up right now.

      • he has a .986 fielding % at first base in AAA…where are these liabilities? Jaso isn’t a gold glove 1B either and has very poor range. No way Bell is worse defensively.

      • Remember when we had the biggest defensive liability on 1st base in the league but kept him in the lineup because of his bat? How many games did we win? Let’s see, 1,2,3…..98

    • No, they need to let him continue to develop in AAA until his defense is MLB capable. He’ll be in Pittsburgh from 2017 to at least 2022. Playing Bell now would lose him in 2022. Which Bell will have the biggest impact for the Pirates, 2016 Bell or 2022 Bell? I’ll take 2022 Bell.

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