CHARLESTON, W.Va. — During a recent game at Appalachian Power Park, Low-A West Virginia hitting coach Orlando Merced stood in the dugout and demonstrated to Josh Bell what he wanted him to do with his swing.
Merced reinforced the advice when Bell was on deck, and the 20-year-old responded by crushing a towering home run to right field to score two runs in an eventual 7-5 win over Delmarva. It was his eighth home run of the season, and it came on the same day Bell was named the starting right fielder for the South Atlantic League All-Star Game.
“(Making the All-Star team) was one of my goals last year, and it's good to get it this year,” Bell said. “I wasn't really expecting it. I didn't know how the voting process worked or anything. It was just one of those things where I played my butt off for a couple months and I was happy to get selected.”
A knee injury ended Bell's first professional season after just 15 games, but the Pirates' second-round pick in 2011 is enjoying a healthy do-over with the Power. Entering the season, Baseball America ranked him the Pirates' sixth-best prospect and the best power hitter in the system. Through 61 games, Bell had a .286 batting average with 18 doubles (tied for fifth in the league), 46 RBI (fifth) and a .477 slugging percentage (15th).
Merced said Bell has a few more holes in his swing than fellow prospect Stetson Allie but that Bell is making the transition well hitting from both sides of the plate. If anything, Merced said, Bell tries too hard to create power instead of relying on his natural power.
“He's 20 years old,” Merced said. “He wants to put a little more of that leverage that he has with his strong body on the ball. I want him to learn how to be a little more under control and stay on the strike zone with his level bat as long as possible. That's something that Allie has conquered maybe a little quicker than Bell has, but, really, those two guys are going to make an impact on this organization and the big club sooner than maybe people expect them to.”
On most nights, Bell bats third with fellow All-Stars Dilson Herrera, signed as an international free agent in 2010, in front of him and Allie behind him. It's a combination that works well for all three, Bell said.
“Stetson hitting behind me gives me a lot of confidence,” he said. “I don't have as much pressure in the box because if I don't move the guy over, I know Stetson will and vice versa with Dilson and I. Dilson is so versatile at second base; he makes sick plays then moves guys over and gets a lot of runs. (Allie's power) is very impressive, especially in batting practice.
“It's always a show.”
Allie said he and Bell, in particular, push each other and believes that's one reason they have been so successful.
“During work days, we teach other little things or go in the cage and talk,” Allie said.
“I think the biggest thing he always says to me is have fun, and I think that's something I need to do to be successful is have fun and realize it is the game I've played since I was born. Josh plays the game real hard and just has fun with it.”
Karen Price is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach her at email@example.com
or via Twitter @KarenPrice_Trib.
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