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Pirates prospect Josh Bell: A Deeper Dive

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Josh Bell was recently promoted to the big leagues. How does he compare to other minor league performers in recent history?

Josh Bell, the $5 Million Dollar Man
Josh Bell, the $5 Million Dollar Man
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

One thing I like to do is to compare a prospect to other players in past years who were at the same level, similar age, and with similar production (especially with BB/K, ISO, wRC+), and then see how those players have performed in the big leagues.

Josh Bell has spent this season, his age-23 season, at Triple-A, logging over 350 PA. I decided to look at players in their age 22 to 24 seasons with at least a 140 wRC+ and 300 PA in Triple-A in any season since 2006 (that's as far back as Fangraphs goes). Doing so gave me a list of 34 players. The player with the most value in his career to date from this list is Howie Kendrick, with 26 fWAR over 5100+ PA. But, going beyond wRC+, he isn't necessarily the best comparison to Josh Bell. The group of 34 players averaged 1388 PA, 3.5 fWAR, 0.6 fWAR/650, with a median of 1068 PA, 1.1 fWAR, 1.3 fWAR/650.

So I looked at players that fell within .25 in BB/K, .040 in ISO, 20 points in wRC+, and .030 in ISO*BB/K. The two players who fell within both of these categories were Elijiah Dukes and Matt Laporta. You can kind of see Bell as falling somewhere in the middle of those two players, as they performed as prospects in Triple-A. There were 10 players who were in at least three of those four categories (table is sortable):

Name Team Year Age PA BB% K% BB/K AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO BABIP ISO*BB/K wRC+ MLB PA MLB fWAR fWAR/650 PA
Geovany Soto Cubs (AAA) 2007 24 444 11.9% 20.9% .57 .349 .422 .640 1.063 .291 .399 .166 168 2809 13.7 3.2
James Loney Dodgers (AAA) 2006 22 406 7.9% 8.4% .94 .380 .426 .546 .973 .167 .397 .157 155 5268 8.1 1.0
Joc Pederson Dodgers (AAA) 2014 22 553 18.1% 26.9% .67 .303 .435 .582 1.017 .279 .385 .187 164 885 4.3 3.2
Corey Dickerson Rockies (AAA) 2013 24 345 7.5% 14.2% .53 .371 .414 .632 1.046 .260 .409 .138 172 1191 4.0 2.2
Elijah Dukes Devil Rays (AAA) 2006 22 334 13.2% 14.1% .94 .293 .401 .488 .889 .194 .323 .182 151 970 2.3 1.5
Taylor Green Brewers (AAA) 2011 24 487 11.3% 14.8% .76 .336 .413 .583 .997 .248 .360 .188 145 154 -0.1 -0.4
Domingo Santana - - - 2015 22 411 13.1% 26.3% .50 .333 .426 .573 .999 .240 .439 .120 168 355 -0.3 -0.5
Jesus Aguilar Indians (AAA) 2014 24 499 12.8% 19.2% .67 .304 .395 .511 .905 .206 .350 .138 149 58 -0.6 -6.7
Matt Laporta Indians (AAA) 2009 24 393 10.7% 14.2% .75 .299 .388 .530 .917 .231 .313 .173 154 1068 -1.4 -0.9
Dan Vogelbach Cubs (AAA) 2016 23 345 15.9% 18.8% .85 .312 .426 .547 .973 .235 .357 .200 157


Josh Bell Pirates (AAA) 2016 23 359 11.4% 15.3% .75 .324 .407 .535 .942 .212 .358 .159 170


The most successful to date is Geovany Soto, with 13.7 fWAR. Second is James Loney, an interesting addition as he's the type of player I thought Bell would turn into before he showed the additional power this year. And tied with Soto for the most fWAR/650 PA is Joc Pederson, but Bell has never struck out at the same rate as Pederson.

This group as a whole has averaged 1418 PA, with 3.0 fWAR and 0.3 fWAR/650 - with a median of 970 PA, 2.3 fWAR, and 1.0 fWAR/650. The only player who hasn't made it to the big leagues is fellow 2016 Triple-A slugger Dan Vogelbach, and he likely will join whatever team he gets traded to this summer.

What does this list mean? Mostly, that it's hard as hell for a prospect to succeed. And that the first measure of success is making it to the big leagues. Out of the list of 34, the two without any big league time are Vogelbach and Hunter Renfroe, and both should be called up sometime this year. So just being a 22-24 year old with a 140 wRC+ in Triple-A means you're going to see the big leagues. Even still, it doesn't guarantee success.

The entire list of 34 is below (table is sortable). In the comments below, tell me:

  • Who you think is most similar to Bell, and why?
  • What are your predictions for Bell's final 2016 MLB stats?
  • Will Josh Bell be an All Star? If so, in what year will he make his first All Star team?

Name Team Year Age PA BB% K% BB/K AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO BABIP ISO*BB/K wRC+ MLB PA MLB fWAR fWAR/650 PA
James Loney Dodgers (AAA) 2006 22 406 7.9% 8.4% .94 .380 .426 .546 .973 .167 .397 .157 155 5268 8.1 1.0
Howie Kendrick Angels (AAA) 2006 22 312 3.8% 15.4% .25 .369 .408 .631 1.039 .262 .409 .066 173 5186 26.0 3.3
Carlos Quentin Diamondbacks (AAA) 2006 23 396 11.4% 11.6% .98 .289 .424 .487 .912 .198 .313 .194 147 3247 10.1 2.0
Geovany Soto Cubs (AAA) 2007 24 444 11.9% 20.9% .57 .349 .422 .640 1.063 .291 .399 .166 168 2809 13.7 3.2
Ronny Cedeno Cubs (AAA) 2007 24 327 9.2% 14.1% .65 .359 .422 .537 .958 .178 .401 .116 147 2792 -1.0 -0.2
Sean Rodriguez - - - 2009 24 459 12.0% 26.6% .45 .294 .397 .608 1.005 .314 .352 .141 162 2273 6.9 2.0
Allen Craig Cardinals (AAA) 2009 24 521 7.1% 18.2% .39 .322 .374 .547 .921 .225 .353 .088 140 2013 4.6 1.5
Adam Eaton Diamondbacks (AAA) 2012 23 562 9.4% 12.1% .78 .381 .456 .539 .995 .158 .432 .123 163 1997 9.5 3.1
J.P. Arencibia Blue Jays (AAA) 2010 24 459 8.3% 18.5% .45 .301 .359 .626 .986 .325 .306 .146 143 1687 0.8 0.3
Jedd Gyorko Padres (AAA) 2012 23 408 8.3% 16.7% .50 .328 .380 .588 .968 .260 .344 .130 146 1587 3.7 1.5
Yan Gomes Blue Jays (AAA) 2012 24 334 7.5% 21.6% .35 .328 .380 .557 .938 .230 .392 .081 140 1585 8.1 3.3
Andy Laroche Dodgers (AAA) 2007 23 311 12.5% 13.5% .93 .309 .399 .589 .987 .279 .306 .259 150 1336 -0.1 0.0
Gregory Polanco Pirates (AAA) 2014 22 305 9.2% 16.1% .57 .328 .390 .504 .894 .175 .377 .100 146 1308 5.3 2.6
Marcus Semien White Sox (AAA) 2014 23 366 14.5% 16.1% .90 .267 .380 .502 .881 .234 .282 .211 142 1255 4.5 2.3
Corey Dickerson Rockies (AAA) 2013 24 345 7.5% 14.2% .53 .371 .414 .632 1.046 .260 .409 .138 172 1191 4.0 2.2
Matt Laporta Indians (AAA) 2009 24 393 10.7% 14.2% .75 .299 .388 .530 .917 .231 .313 .173 154 1068 -1.4 -0.9
Elijah Dukes Devil Rays (AAA) 2006 22 334 13.2% 14.1% .94 .293 .401 .488 .889 .194 .323 .182 151 970 2.3 1.5
Travis D'Arnaud Blue Jays (AAA) 2012 23 303 6.3% 19.5% .32 .333 .380 .595 .975 .262 .374 .084 147 898 3.8 2.8
Joc Pederson Dodgers (AAA) 2014 22 553 18.1% 26.9% .67 .303 .435 .582 1.017 .279 .385 .187 164 885 4.3 3.2
Josh Fields White Sox (AAA) 2006 23 526 10.3% 25.9% .40 .305 .379 .515 .894 .210 .394 .084 151 796 -0.1 -0.1
Brandon Wood Angels (AAA) 2008 23 448 10.0% 23.2% .43 .296 .375 .595 .970 .299 .328 .129 140 751 -3.0 -2.6
Javier Baez Cubs (AAA) 2015 22 313 6.7% 24.3% .28 .324 .385 .527 .911 .203 .402 .057 144 531 1.1 1.3
Domingo Santana - - - 2015 22 411 13.1% 26.3% .50 .333 .426 .573 .999 .240 .439 .120 168 355 -0.3 -0.5
Ramon Flores - - - 2015 23 384 13.0% 12.8% 1.02 .308 .401 .454 .855 .146 .337 .149 147 256 -0.4 -1.0
David Cooper Blue Jays (AAA) 2011 24 545 12.3% 7.9% 1.56 .364 .439 .535 .974 .171 .380 .267 144 226 -0.3 -0.9
Ryan Wheeler Diamondbacks (AAA) 2012 23 399 6.5% 16.8% .39 .351 .388 .572 .960 .221 .388 .086 143 225 -1.4 -4.0
Joey Terdoslavich Braves (AAA) 2013 24 351 6.6% 18.5% .35 .318 .359 .567 .926 .249 .344 .087 155 162 -0.1 -0.4
Taylor Green Brewers (AAA) 2011 24 487 11.3% 14.8% .76 .336 .413 .583 .997 .248 .360 .188 145 154 -0.1 -0.4
Micah Johnson White Sox (AAA) 2015 24 351 9.1% 17.9% .51 .315 .375 .466 .841 .151 .369 .077 145 117 -0.4 -2.2
Jesus Aguilar Indians (AAA) 2014 24 499 12.8% 19.2% .67 .304 .395 .511 .905 .206 .350 .138 149 58 -0.6 -6.7
Trea Turner Nationals (AAA) 2016 23 371 10.0% 19.4% .51 .302 .370 .471 .842 .169 .369 .086 142 48 0.2 2.7
Dan Vogelbach Cubs (AAA) 2016 23 345 15.9% 18.8% .85 .312 .426 .547 .973 .235 .357 .200 157


Josh Bell Pirates (AAA) 2016 23 359 11.4% 15.3% .75 .324 .407 .535 .942 .212 .358 .159 170


Hunter Renfroe Padres (AAA) 2016 24 373 4.0% 18.8% .21 .335 .362 .611 .973 .276 .368 .058 152