Prospect #4 – Josh Bell
The evening of June 6th, 2011 must have been a memorable one for Neal Huntington, Greg Smith and the rest of the Pirates’ front office. Having already selected Gerrit Cole with the first overall pick of the First Year Player Draft, the Pirates watched team after team pass on one of the most sought after high school hitters of recent years, Josh Bell, who had made it clear to all thirty teams that he had no intention of turning professional until after he attended the University of Texas.
I admit that I did not have the stomach for drafting Bell with the first pick of the second round. I believed that the risk of coming away with nothing, when so much premium talent was still available, was too great for a team banking on an impact draft to continue their rebuilding process. As it turns out, Smith spoke to the Bell family that evening, and the Pirates came away thinking they had a shot. At 11:59 pm on the evening of August 15th, they were proven correct – the Pirates signed both Cole and Bell for a combined $13mm, in a watershed moment for the organization.
Bell is a switch-hitting, 6-foot-3 inch outfielder with 70-80 on the power scale from both sides of the plate. He is an average runner, with an average arm, so the Pirates will most likely settle on LF as his position, but with Bell, it’s all about the bat. He has hit some memorable home runs with Jesuit High School, and scouts are uniform in their grading of his bat speed and approach.
Given his advanced status, Bell is expected to begin his career in full season ball for West Virginia in the South Atlantic League, a challenging placement. My guess is that he will prove to be up the task.