Josh Bell lost a year last year, and in the process, fell off all of the national top 100 lists. Every Pirates top 10 list that I’ve seen has Gregory Polanco and Alen Hanson ahead of Bell after those two had breakout seasons while Bell was out with his injury. So what can we expect in 2013 from Bell, after he missed the majority of the 2012 season?
First, I don’t think that the lost season is overly damaging. Bell was a bit older than the average high schooler in his first pro season. He was 19 at the start of the year last year, and turned 20 in August. By comparison, fellow 2011 draft pick Clay Holmes doesn’t turn 20 for another month. Tyler Glasnow doesn’t turn 20 until August. While Bell is a bit older than those other 2011 prep picks, he was also starting out ahead of them. The placement in West Virginia was aggressive — although it’s one of those situations where you expect a top player to receive an aggressive placement, which makes the placement seem less aggressive than it actually is. Bell missed most of the season, and will most likely return to West Virginia in 2013.
Holmes will probably be joining him there, and Glasnow could be there as well, depending on how his Spring goes. That would be a slightly aggressive placement for each player, but a more common approach than the push Bell got in 2012. Because he missed most of the year, Bell now goes from having an aggressive push, to having the expected aggressive push for a high schooler. If we think about what would have happened if he had gone to college, he probably wouldn’t have reached high-A until 2015. It’s definitely possible that he could be there by the end of the 2013 season, and he’ll definitely be there in 2014.
That’s not to say that the missed time didn’t hurt him. We saw Robbie Grossman repeat a year in high-A after initially getting that aggressive push out of high school to West Virginia. Grossman had to repeat a year to fix his poor strikeout numbers. Bell didn’t improve on anything in his lost year. He had a few red flags early in the 2012 season, with some alarming strikeout numbers. Some of that could have been due to a heavy diet of changeups. It could also be due to the fact that Bell had never played in cold weather before, prior to his time in West Virginia. Either way, he’s using his repeat year in 2013, which means he can’t afford another lost year with strike zone issues.
Other than that, I don’t see why Bell is any different now than this time last year. The knee injury isn’t a long-term thing, and doesn’t hurt his value. The bulk of his value comes from his hitting ability. He has the potential to be a plus hitter with plus power from each side of the plate. Last year I was impressed watching how the ball exploded off his bat in batting practice. I saw the same thing today. Bell said he added some muscle weight last year, which is only helping him make better contact. On that note, he said he was up to 240, and his listed weight on every profile is 195 pounds. That doesn’t mean he added 45 pounds last year. The listed weights are never updated. Bell was 213 pounds in last year’s media guide, which came out before the season.
My expectations for Bell this time around are the same as last year. I’m optimistic because of his potential, and looking forward to seeing what he can do over a full season in the pros. Hopefully this time around he’ll get that chance.
I take a lot of photos throughout the day at Pirate City and McKechnie Field. Each night I’ll post some of the daily photos in this section to give you a view of what’s going on, and a look at some of the prospects in the system.
Links and Notes
**I mentioned how Josh Bell is still listed at 195 on most sites, even though he’s been documented above that since the draft. He’s not the only case. I was looking at Gregory Polanco’s weight about a week ago, since he’s been listed as 6′ 4″, 170 pounds for a long time. Polanco went up to 196 pounds in the 2011 media guide, and 206 in the 2012 media guide. The 2013 guide isn’t out yet, but when it is we’ll be starting on a project to update the height and weight on every player page to get more accurate figures.
Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.