Morning Report: Josh Bell’s Missing Power

If you look at all the minor league players for the Pittsburgh Pirates from the 2014 season, the player with the most plate appearances without a homer was Chris Diaz, who kept the ball in the park all 327 times. If you go to the home run leaders, the guy who is tied for 12th in the organization last year with Gift Ngoepe and Chris McGuiness(who both hit nine) is in a homerless drought that far exceeds Diaz’s total.

I mentioned on Twitter last night that Josh Bell hasn’t homered since June 12,2014, which includes 200 plate appearances during the regular season last year, 97 plate appearances from the Arizona Fall League last fall and another 68 from this season. You can also throw in his Spring Training at-bats and the three All-Star games(FSL, Futures and AFL Fall-Stars), basically anything with a boxscore attached to it, and you get 377 straight plate appearances without a home run. That is a long time for anyone, but might get you worried when it comes from someone who is supposed to be a fixture in the middle of the Pirates’ lineup relatively soon.

I have said numerous times that I don’t expect Bell to be a 30 home run guy, but I also don’t expect him to be Mark Grace either(especially not on defense). Grace averaged 11 homers a year over his career and never topped 17 in a season during his 16 years. The reason I don’t expect 30+ homers is because Bell is a line drive hitter that uses the gaps well. I watched him numerous times in batting practice crush line drives to the middle of the field, but only once did I ever see him homer and it just barely got out.

If you’ve ever seen him up close, you know that he is a big strong kid, who looks like he should be able to hit 30 homers and we have heard that predicted by some in the past, but it’s hard to get the ball over the fence when you have no loft to your swing. I could see him hitting 50 doubles a year before he hits 25-30 homers and for a guy that bats over .300, even if he is playing first base, that .300/50 combo is something you’ll always take in your lineup.

I don’t think you should be worried that your future first baseman isn’t hitting homers because he still looks like he will be a solid hitter in the big leagues. He is hitting .333 this year, with seven walks and seven strikeouts.He has a .301/.361/.450 slash line over his minor league career, and he just recently surpassed the 1,000 at-bat mark. He puts the ball in play, rarely striking out for someone that often makes solid contact. Bell is also still 22 years old and likely won’t be in the Majors until mid-2016, so there is still plenty of physical maturity to go through and experience to be had before he reaches Pittsburgh. At this point, his homerless streak, while hard to believe, shouldn’t have you worried about his future.

Pirates Game Graph

Source: FanGraphs

Today’s Schedule

Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pirates lost 4-0 to the Cubs on Monday night. Game two of the series is tonight with Jeff Locke taking on Travis Wood. In Locke’s last outing, he gave up four earned runs over five innings, allowing seven hits, three walks and he had seven strikeouts. Last time Wood pitched was against the Pirates last Tuesday, when he allowed three earned runs over five innings.

In the minors,  Indianapolis has a doubleheader with a morning start time. Casey Sadler will make his third start of the season, tentatively scheduled for game one right now. Zack Dodson make his third start for Altoona, he also pitched once in relief. Dodson has thrown 12 shutout innings this year despite picking up just one strikeout. West Virginia was off yesterday. When they resume play today, they will complete an earlier game against Hagerstown that was suspended due to rain, and then play the regularly scheduled contest. You can view last night’s prospect watch here.

MLB: Pittsburgh (11-9) @ Cubs (11-7) 8:05 PM
Probable starter: Jeff Locke (3.32 ERA, 4:15 BB/SO, 19.0 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (10-8) @ Louisville (6-11) 11:05 AM (season preview)
Probable starter: Casey Sadler (2.08 ERA, 2:9 BB/SO, 13.0 IP) and Charlie Leesman (4.91 ERA, 7:7 BB/SO, 11.0 IP)

AA: Altoona (11-5) @ Akron (9-9) 6:35 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Zack Dodson (0.00 ERA, 1:1 BB/SO, 12.0 IP)

High-A: Bradenton (10-8) @ Charlotte (12-6) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Matt Benedict (1.93 ERA, 2:11 BB/SO, 16.0 IP)

Low-A: West Virginia (10-5) @ Hagerstown (8-9) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Alex McRae (4.15 ERA, 3:10 BB/SO, 13.0 IP)


From Saturday, Tyler Glasnow picks up a strikeout swinging on a curve. He had just four strikeouts in the game, his lowest total since July 17,2014(11 starts) when he also had four strikeouts. Glasnow has 17 strikeouts this year in 16.2 innings.

Recent Transactions

4/27: Jeremy Bleich promoted to Altoona

4/26: John Sever added to WV Power roster. Austin Coley transferred to WV Black Bears roster.

4/25: Jonathan Schwind placed on disabled list.

4/25: Justin Sellers transferred from Bradenton to Indianapolis on rehab.

4/25: Jeremy Bleich added to Bradenton roster.

4/22: Francisco Diaz assigned to WV Black Bears roster. Kawika Emsley-Pai added to WV Power roster.

4/21: John Sever assigned to WV Black Bears roster. Jose Regalado added to West Virginia Power roster.

4/20: Justin Sellers assigned to Bradenton on rehab.

4/19: Wilkin Castillo assigned to West Virginia Black Bears

4/19: Pat Ludwig retires.

4/18: Jaff Decker activated from disabled list and optioned to Indianapolis. Adam Miller assigned to WV Black Bears.

4/18: Junior Sosa sent to Bradenton. Barrett Barnes assigned to Extended Spring Training.

4/17: Brad Lincoln assigned to Indianapolis. Andy Vasquez assigned to Altoona.

4/17: Chris Stewart activated from disabled list. Tony Sanchez optioned to Indianapolis.

4/16: Jordan Luplow added to West Virginia Power. Jose Regalado transferred to West Virginia Black Bears.

4/16: Kelson Brown transferred to West Virginia Black Bears.

4/14: Jose Regalado added to West Virginia Power. Erik Forgione assigned to West Virginia Black Bears

4/14: Collin Balester assigned to Altoona.

This Date in Pirates History

Seven former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, all of them pitchers. Recent pitchers include former first round draft pick Daniel Moskos, high-priced Cuban signing Yoslan Herrera and Romulo Sanchez, who pitched for the team during the 2007-08 seasons.

Older pitchers born on this date include Pedro Ramos(1969), Tom Sturdivant(1961-63) and  Walt Woods, who pitched for the Pirates on April 27,1900, one day before his 25th birthday. Woods had a 20-year career in pro ball.

The final pitcher born on this date was Red Lucas, who played five seasons for the Pirates, from 1934 until 1938. He went 47-32 during his time with Pittsburgh and Lucas has a very under-appreciated career. He won a total of 157 games, he made just 12 errors during his entire 14-year career and he was a .281 career hitter, who was used as a pinch-hitter almost 500 times.

The link above also includes a trade from the 1910 season, where the Pirates tried to improve their pitching staff by giving up two players to the Boston Doves for Kirby White.

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Well…….Tim might take .300 and 50 doubles, but if that comes with 7 homers and average defense, it isn’t anything to be even remotely happy about especially when he doesn’t really add any speed. Realistically Mark Grace hit a lot of doubles and put up double digit homers more times than you might remember. What you have left, is a 2 tool player. If he doesn’t have any loft in his swing- change his swing. Now is the time for this, maybe instead of making a radical position change, using his frame and strength to actually meet his potential is more important


Not to mention .300/50 is an extremely optimistic ceiling. I haven’t seen a single scout or analyst put a 7 on his hit tool, which would roughly equate to a .300 average, and only two guys were 50-double players last year; two the year before, as well. That swing isn’t going to work from the right side against big league pitching, either.

Also, good luck getting him to change his swing. To this day the kid has a “personal swing coach”.

I think he’ll be a big leaguer, but I’m not as confident that he’ll be all that productive for at least a couple more seasons. Simply has to learn to tap that power.


When the Pirates (who pay his bills) tell him his swing coach is gone- his swing coach is gone. That time might not be far off.


So John, you are saying that the quick hands and the bat speed are there, but that the swing plane is off so there is no back spin and carry on the ball? Are the Pirates working with him to adjust that?


Any team needs contact hitters to either get on base or drive runners home, if all you have is power guys you wind up with a lot of k’s and a low scoring offence. A nice mix is the way to go.


Sounds like a James Loney type of hitter, which is not a bad thing….just not equal to expectations…but, there have been guys who showed more HR power in the majors over what they showed in the minors…..


Is his ceiling Allen Craig in his prime or is that a lazy comparison on my part? Cause I’d be fine with that. If Harrison, Polanco, Cutch and Marte are hitting in front of him who all have speed – I’ll take those doubles.

John W

Is he the next Orlando Merced?


I think comparisons to Bobby Bo are more accurate?

Esp when you consider the glove….Merced was good with the glove, while Bobby Bo wasn’t.


John….I like a Bobby Bo comparison myself.

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