With Andrew McCutchen already an MVP and Starling Marte one of baseball's best up-and-comers, the Pirates outfield already could have a claim to be one of the most talented in the Majors. Then, of course, there's Gregory Polanco, Pittsburgh's top prospect who's batting .400 with four homers and 24 RBIs at Triple-A Indianapolis.
The immediate future of the Pirates' outfield is incredibly bright. Josh Bell is doing his part to show the long-term future might be even brighter.
Pittsburgh's sixth-ranked prospect homered, tripled and drove in a career-high five runs on Sunday afternoon in Class A Advanced Bradenton's 7-6 win over St. Lucie.
The 21-year-old switch-hitter went deep in his first at-bat, sending an offering from Mets right-hander Luis Cessa (0-3) over the wall in left to give the Marauders a 2-0 lead. It was his first homer since April 5.
"It was a 1-0 count after I got a first-pitch two-seamer down," Bell said. "So I was sitting two-seamer up, and that's what I got. I didn't really see it well, even though I knew I got it good, so I was just getting on my horse before I had to do the fair-ball signal kind of thing.
"It's a nice feeling to get one off the bat like that in the first inning after a while. Hopefully, there's plenty more to come."
Bell almost homered again six innings later, although it would have been of the inside-the-park variety. He legged out a triple on a fly ball to right off right-handed reliever Eudy Pina but was thrown out on the relay to the plate.
"The ball just got lost a little bit behind the pitcher's mound, so I tried to stretch it a little bit," Bell said. "[Shortstop] Dilson Herrera made a nice barehanded play to get me out. There's not much you can do about that."
The 21-year-old owns a .289/.330/.470 slash line with two homers, three triples, three doubles and 13 RBIs through 21 games. Despite playing in the more pitcher-friendly confines of the Florida State League and going up against more advanced competition, his power numbers are up compared to last season, when he batted .279 with a .470 slugging percentage.
That's not a mistake, according to the slugger.
"I'm trying more to swing on my pitch," he said. "I want to do better on off-speed stuff in general, but if a pitch is not absolutely crushable, I'm doing my best to lay off it."
Before the new approach, MLB.com liked enough of what it saw to rank Bell among its Top 100 prospects for the first time, joining fellow Pirates Polanco, Jameson Taillon, Tyler Glasnow, Austin Meadows, Alen Hanson and Reese McGuire among. He's up to No. 71 in the latest rankings, earning 60 (above-average) grades for hitting and power tools.
That type of scouting report would be good enough to get any organization excited about an outfielder's big league potential. But with a crowded Bucs outfield that could stay that way for years to come, Bell will be afforded plenty of time to continue his development in the Minors. And that's the way he wants it.
"Right now, I'm doing my best at controlling what I can," he said. "If I have a rough game, I just have to focus on what I can do better next time out. Whatever happens in the future is just going to happen, whether that's getting to the Majors ASAP or taking some time to reach that."
Marauders starter John Kuchno (3-2) got the win after allowing three runs on six hits over five innings.
Mets No. 6 prospect Brandon Nimmo went 0-for-3 but walked twice for St. Lucie. The 21-year-old center fielder owns a .379/.514/.483 slash line in 23 games.