Some minor league baseball notes for your consideration this fine Tuesday afternoon:
***At this time back in 2011, Texas high school outfielder Josh Bell was sending unmistakeable signals that he was unsignable and headed to college at the University of Texas: he sent a letter to every club telling them not to draft him. The Pittsburgh Pirates took a shot at him in the second round anyway and lured him into pro ball with a huge $5,000,000 bonus. His career started slowly due to a knee injury but he was effective last year (.335/.385/.402 in High-A before a late promotion to Double-A) and has remained that way so far in 2015, posting a .333/.403/.417 line in 15 games for Altoona with seven walks and seven strikeouts in 60 at-bats.
The switch-hitting Bell looks like he should be a massive power hitter with a strong 6-2, 235 pound frame but it hasn't quite turned out that way. The raw power is certainly there but his game power often plays down, or at least it has thus far in Double-A, where in 154 career at-bats he has just five doubles and zero homers. However, Bell's pure hitting skills are solid and he has a very good eye for the strike zone, enabling him to maintain strong batting averages and on-base percentages even though there has been less isolated power than expected.
Bell has moved to first base this year due to substandard outfield range, which will increase the pressure on his power development. I still think there is every reason for optimism with Bell's bat long-term due to his command of the strike zone.
***Another fast starter in the Double-A Eastern League is Toronto Blue Jays prospect Dwight Smith, Jr., currently hitting .319/.351/.486 with four walks and just six strikeouts in 72 at-bats for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats. The son of former big league outfielder Dwight Smith, Junior has just average physical tools and less raw power and strength than Bell. However, his feel for hitting is every bit as good as Bell's, if not better, and he taps into his power more often in games than Bell does. Smith is also faster and a more valuable defensive player.
Some video per moorebaseball.com
Age 22, Smith had two solid years in A-ball but scouts wanted to see how his bat would look against better pitching and there were concerns about his ability to handle left-handed moundsmen. Interestingly, he is actually showing a reverse platoon split this year, hitting 435/.480/.609 against lefties but just .267/.292/.422 against regular folk.If we see some equalization there his overall slash line could improve beyond the already strong levels.
***All pre-orders and all orders through this morning for the 2015 Baseball Prospect Book have been shipped. There are fewer than 100 copies left and once they are gone, they are gone. The book contains reports on almost 1,200 minor league prospects from all 30 organizations and is a great companion through the baseball season. You can order the .PDF version or the print version (which includes the PDF) at Johnsickels.net.