The Pirates Prospects 2017 Prospect Guide is now available for pre-sales. The book will be released the week before Spring Training, and we are currently in the process of making the final changes with editing and formatting.

The book features prospect reports on everyone in the system, the 2017 top 50 prospects, and the most comprehensive coverage of the Pirates’ farm system that you can find. Subscribers to the site get discounted books, with Top Prospect subscribers getting $10 off, and Annual subscribers getting $5 off. The eBook will be released when the book is released, and will also come with discounts. Details on the promotions can be found on the products page, and you can subscribe to the site or upgrade your current plan on the subscriptions page.

While the top 50 prospects are exclusive to the book, we will be releasing the top 20 prospects over the next few weeks as a countdown to the start of Spring Training, and to give a preview of the release of the book. We will be wrapping up on Monday, February 13th. The reports will only be available to site subscribers, including those with a monthly plan. You can subscribe here, and if you like these reports, be sure to purchase your copy of the book on the products page of the site to get much more analysis on every player in the system.

To recap the countdown so far:

20. Alen Hanson, 2B

19. Luis Escobar, RHP

18. Edgar Santana, RHP

17. Elias Diaz, C

16. Max Kranick, RHP

15. Trevor Williams, RHP

14. Braeden Ogle, LHP

13. Clay Holmes, RHP

12. Steven Brault, LHP

11. Nick Kingham, RHP

10. Gage Hinsz, RHP

9. Taylor Hearn, LHP

8. Will Craig, 3B

7. Ke’Bryan Hayes, 3B

6. Cole Tucker, SS

5. Kevin Newman, SS

We continue the countdown with the number 4 prospect, Josh Bell.

4. Josh Bell, 1B

For most of September, it didn’t look like Josh Bell would even be in this book. Our cutoff for eligibility is 130 at-bats, and Bell would have hit that, except he didn’t play on the final day of the season. That makes him prospect and Rookie of the Year eligible in 2017, with the starting first base job already locked up. Bell isn’t really a prospect like most in this book, since he’s much closer to his upside, with little to work on.

The biggest thing to work on is his defense at first. He’s had a tough transition from the outfield two years ago, and hasn’t handled it well, with negative defensive value taking away from his positive offensive value. He is focusing on yoga and slimming down to be more agile and make more plays. He had minor knee surgery in February, and the concern there is that it continues a history of knee issues, also in 2012 and 2014.

The offense has taken some big strides in the last two years. Bell has gradually adjusted his swing from both sides, and now is a lot smoother from the right side, while incorporating his lower half more from both sides. The result is that he’s starting to tap into his power potential, with the ability to hit 25+ homers per year in the future. That, combined with his plus strike zone control, means we haven’t come close to seeing his offensive upside. The defense will take some value away, but Bell will hit enough to still provide value.

The big question for the 2017 season is how the scales tip between the offensive improvements and the defensive struggles. Bell might improve his defense, but it’s doubtful he will see big changes overnight. If he doesn’t add enough offense, he could be average overall, at best. Long-term, he projects as an above-average first baseman, with a lot of impact from his bat, and hopefully close to neutral defensive value.

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  1. Josh Bell has the sort of physique I would have if I both had natural size and athleticism and a commitment to fitness.

    I wonder if they kept him out of the last game last year so he’d have a shot at ROY this year.

    • They said that they didn’t, but other teams did the same thing and common sense says otherwise. Bell will have competition from Dansby Swanson, who fell one at-bat short and Alex Reyes, who finished four innings short.

    • Hahaha…

      That reminds me of a quote some NHL player made years ago…something like:

      “I have a washboard stomach…there’s just a couple loads of laundry on top of it.”

  2. How hard can it be for an athlete of Bell’s caliber to learn to play first passably? I can’t remember such concerns about any other player that made the switch to first- usually because they were too chubby or slow to play anywhere else.

    • Athleticism can mean a lot of different things. I’m not sure he is necessarily a great athlete overall. His offensive value comes from his hand eye coordination and quick hands, and is big/strong guy. Not sure he is very agile or has very good footwork or coordination though. Seems like he is willing to put in a lot of hard work, so hopefully he can develop into an adequate defender over time.

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