After looking a bit over-matched during his first at-bat in a strikeout against Marlins left-handed prospect Jarlin Garcia, Josh Bell certainly showed the power potential that he has in his second at-bat.
Bell, who has shown much more power from the left side of the dish, hammered a 1-0 fastball off Edwin Diaz of the Mariners over the right-center field wall for a 388-foot two-run homer in the fourth inning of the All-Star Futures game in Cincinnati.
“[The pitch on the home run] was a sinker,” Bell said. “He threw a ball for the first pitch. I was ready to swing, got my pitch, and drove it. It was an awesome experience and is one of those things that you cross your fingers to hit a home run and I was blessed to do it in that situation.”
In addition, Bell made a nice backhand scoop on a low throw to first base earlier in the game, as he showed the development of his game as a whole. Bell listed playing a solid defensive game at first base as one of his goals for the contest prior to the first pitch. With the play, and wrapping up a few double plays, he did just that in the nationally televised event.
“I feel like that is one of my stronger suits [defensively at first base],” Bell said. “I have been working at picking the ball over there since day one of Spring Training. That is definitely in my back pocket. The comfort and the reps are there [defensively], I am just trying to get better every day.”
Defense is one of the aspects that has been keeping Bell from a Triple-A promotion, as Sean McCool pointed out in a recent article. Bell also had a bit of a tough June, but has still hit .312 this season, with an .811 OPS and four home runs. The power portion is still a work in progress, but he projects well in that department.
Bell also thinks that the power is the last part of his offensive game before he becomes a complete hitter.
As for his experience at the Futures Game, it was Bell’s second go around. After playing in last year’s contest in Minnesota, Bell came back as the elder statesman and was just looking to fully enjoy the experience.
“I just try to soak it all in,” Bell said. “I am here with a great group of guys and I just want to get a win for the USA, while still having as much fun as possible.”
Elias Diaz was the other Pirates’ prospect in the contest and he entered as a defensive replacement in the bottom of the sixth inning. He got his first at-bat in the seventh inning, but flew out to left after dealing with some overpowering fastballs from Sean Newcomb of the Angels.
In his second at bat, Diaz fell behind 1-2 after being badly fooled on a breaking ball from Colin Rea, but fought back to run the count full. However, he grounded out softly to second on a 93 mile per hour inside fastball.
For Diaz, being named to the team was followed by a sense of pride. He also thinks that it is a stepping stone for his ultimate goal.
“I am really excited to represent the Pirates and my country of Venezuela,” Diaz said. “It feels great. This was one of my goals for this year. It just that much closer to making my dream a reality. It helps me want to go to the next goal and get better every day.”
For Diaz, unlike Bell, this was his first time in a big league park and seeing the third deck in the stands. While this was the case, Diaz was not looking to feel the nerves in the contest.
“This is my first time [playing in a Major League stadium],” Diaz said. “Even with the size of the park, what we have to do is the same. I just go play and be the same guy that I can be.”
The experience of coming to the Futures Game is something that Diaz said that he will always remember. He was also pleased to have had the opportunity to meet so many other ballplayers that he shared the clubhouse with.
“I have gotten to spend some time with different guys from different countries,” Diaz said. “I have also met some guys from Venezuela, and I have really enjoyed the time.”
While Bell clearly stole the show, both players showed why they are among the top prospects in baseball.