Name: Josh Bell
Notable 2011 Stats: None (2011 draftee; signed too late to play)
Why He’s This High: Bell is the only 2011 draftee picked outside of the top eight selections to make this list. Picked by the Pirates with the first pick (#61 overall) of the second round, he was thought to be unsignable, but eventually agreed for $5 million at the signing deadline. Therefore, his selection belies how he was rated; the reason why he fell to the 61st pick is purely signability.
A lean, long-limbed outfielder, Bell has bigtime power potential from both sides of the plate. He could be a 35-45 HR hitter down the line.
Like Michael Choice the year before, Bell isn’t just a power hitter. He’s a solid defensive outfielder and good athlete who shouldn’t be an entirely one-dimensional player down the line.
Why He’s This Low: It’s tough for me to get too worked up about a player who hasn’t proven anything in pro ball. For example, the top high school power threat in the previous draft, Josh Sale, hit .210/.289/.346 in rookie ball in his pro debut. Bell projects better than Sale–who wasn’t on my top 100 last season–but still, he’s a guy who’s going to have to prove he can make contact in pro ball before being considered a truly elite prospect.
Bell’s old for a high school draftee, which one can take as a bad sign in light of Rany Jazayerli’s recent eye-opening study on the success of top high school hitter draftees by age. He’ll be four months from his 20th birthday by the time he debuts, and the pressure will be on for him to excel from the beginning.
Like Choice and Sale, Bell doesn’t have much present contact ability, and he’s going to have to prove he’s not just another Cody Johnson type. Obviously, he’ll have to hit if he’s going to be a starting-quality corner outfielder, let alone a star.
Conclusions: One can see Bell as a poor man’s Bryce Harper. He’s got immense power and while he’s stuck in a corner outfield spot, he’s got athleticism for that position.
However, the question with players of this type is how well they can get their power to translate into games. Bell’s going to need to show that he can get his strikeout rates down near 20%, control the strike zone, and recognize breaking pitches.
Obviously, we’ll know more in a year. Due to his immense power potential, Bell is definitely a player to watch, but given his rawness and distance from the big leagues, he’s somebody who has a lot to prove before he merits a push into the game’s top young hitters.
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