Results tagged ‘ Josh Bell ’

Rounding the Bases: Henry Owens, an appreciation

Rudy C. Jones

Rudy C. Jones

With some games under our belt, we can start to pick up on a few trends going on throughout Minor League Baseball. One is how much better some notable starting pitchers have been in their second starts compared to their first. Lucas Giolito — MLB.com’s No. 43 prospect — rebounded from his opening start, during which he allowed three earned runs in three innings, to toss five scoreless innings of one-hit ball Thursday. Andrew Heaney — MLB.com’s top left-handed prospect — had a similar story. Same goes for 2013 top pick Mark Appel, Mariners right-hander Edwin Diaz and Padres right-hander Joe Ross.

Beyond prospects who rank in the top 20 in their respective organizations, Chad Green (Tigers), Darin Gorski (Mets) and James Dykstra (White Sox) also went through similar rebounds. There are any number of reasons why pitchers would stumble in their first outing and bounce back in their second. Nerves could play a part, even if the pitchers themselves don’t mention it. There is that early April weather, which Giolito said he wasn’t adequately prepared for in his first go-round. There are necessary course-corrections that need to be made. (Better off-speed stuff seemed to be a popular topic among the above pitchers.)

What I’m getting at is that consistency can be incredibly hard to come by early in the season, when everyone is just getting his feet under him. And that’s what makes Henry Owens’s start to 2014 jump out even more. Armed with a low-90s fastball and a dangerous changeup, the Red Sox left-hander began by, oh, just throwing a six-inning, rain-shortened no-hitter for Double-A Portland on Opening Night in Reading. He struck out nine and walked two in the first complete-game no-hitter by a Sea Dogs hurler in franchise history. On Wednesday, he allowed six hits — ouch, I guess — but again fanned nine in another 6 2/3 scoreless frames against Trenton.

At this early stage, he’s second in the Minors with 18 strikeouts — only Visalia’s Andrew Barbosa has more with 23 — and of the 68 Minor League pitchers with a 0.00 ERA as of Friday afternoon, he’s pitched the most innings (12 2/3). It’d be one thing to simply claim that these are two great starts — nothing more — and hold off on the amazement, but this is just a continuation of where Owens left off in 2013. He moved to the Double-A level in August and hit the ground running, posting a 1.78 ERA with 46 strikeouts in six starts (30 1/3 innings). For the season as a whole, he finished second in Minor League strikeouts with 169 in 135 innings.

“The thing that stood out for me was his feel for pitching,” Red Sox director of player development Ben Crockett told me after the 2013 season. “He was able to thrive at such an advanced level. Obviously, he has very good stuff, and that starts with the good feel he has for his changeup and keeping hitters off-balance. It complements the fastball well and makes for two tough pitches to hit.”

At this point, every Owens start is becoming must-follow for not only Red Sox fans but also all prospect hounds. (It’s perhaps not quite at Pedro Martinez-in-1999 level, although a few more starts like these first two would push it closer.) It’s not out of the question to foresee a promotion to Triple-A Pawtucket in a few months and a September call-up to Boston. As I’ve said, it’s early yet, but it’s still OK to have your interest piqued in a performance like Owens’. As we’ve seen, it’s not all that common.

The Bell Tolls Early: Is it too early to say I told you so? Don’t kid yourself. Of course it is. Still, I have to be a little encouraged by the early returns on Pirates No. 6 prospect Josh Bell down at Class A Advanced Bradenton. The 21-year-old right fielder is 10-for-24 (.417) with a homer, a triple, three doubles and three RBIs through his first six games with the Marauders. He has at least one hit in each of those half-dozen contests and multiple hits in four of them. Furthermore, the one homer on the resume wasn’t exactly a cheapo either. It came on a 1-2 pitch from Rays No. 16 prospect and Charlotte right-hander Jeff Ames that the switch-hitting Bell “smashed” for a solo shot to right field last Saturday.

I called Bell the “player most likely to rise in the prospect rankings in 2014” when MLB.com released its list in January because I believed — and still believe — that another healthy season from the Bucs outfielder should mean a more powerful one as well. Though it’s too early to claim any nails have been hit on the head, the start is encouraging. As for where Bell’s hot start places on the Shelton Sustainability Index, give him Two Sheltons. He’s neither going to bat .417 for too long nor will he slug .750. But is he capable of competing with Albert Almora for the title of the Florida State League’s best hitter? I’d say so.

Mascot Items of the Week: Akron revealed its newest mascot to go along with the name change.

And Tulsa. . .well, I’ve got nothing, except to say I don’t think I’ll be able to look my fridge in the face for a while.

Quick Hits

– Taijuan Walker struck out 10 over five scoreless innings with Double-A Jackson and told colleague Ashley Marshall, “Whenever they call me up, I’m ready for it. I don’t want to be a hero, I don’t want to be that guy that tries to push through just to get that next start. I know my own body best, and if I had felt something that didn’t feel right, I would tell the team and get re-evaluated.”

FanGraphs’ Carston Cistulli explains which pitching tools translated best to the Majors for the game’s best prospects from 2005. Cistulli found that hurlers with the best curveball (Justin Verlander, Felix Hernandez) were more likely to stick to starting while those with the best sliders (Jonathan Papelbon) were more apt to move to the bullpen. That’s good news for the likes of Archie Bradley, Noah Syndergaard and Robert Stephenson, each of which received 60-plus grades on their curveballs from MLB.com.

– He’s no longer in the Minors, but it’s still fun to watch Billy Hamilton at his fastest. Jeff Sullivan, also at FanGraphs, shows how Hamilton, singled, stole second (against Yadier Molina!), moved to third on a fly-ball out and then scored on one of the shortest sac fly you’ve ever seen.

In Baseball Prospectus’  latest “What Scouts Are Saying” post, Braves infielder Tommy La Stella picks up some big praise while Royals outfielder Bubba Starling, well, doesn’t.

Prospect Roundup: Games of April 8, 2014

By Jake Seiner / MiLB.com

MiLB.com game stories:

Indians RHP Dylan Baker perfect in Mudcats’ debut

Indians 1B Jesus Aguilar goes yard twice for Clippers

Red Sox RHP Allen Webster grounds up Syracuse

Phillies C Cameron Rupp goes yard again

Cardinals LHP Kyle Helisek tosses six one-hit frames

Braves P Frank Lafreniere, Royals P Austin Fairchild duel in Sally

White Sox RHP Andrew Mitchell spins five hitless innings

Angels 1B C.J. Cron belts walk-off blast for Bees

Padres RHP Joe Ross unfurls six scoreless innings

Whitecaps win home opener three months after ballpark fire

Other prospect performances of note:

Los Angeles (NL) OF Joc Pederson, Triple-A Albuquerque: 2-for-3, HR, 2B, BB, RBI, R — Pederson has homered in three of his past four games, going 8-for-14 with four walks ever since going 0-for-3 on Opening Day. The Palo Alto, Calif., native is hitting .471 with a laughable 1.630 OPS thus far for the ‘Topes.

Minnesota RHP Trevor May, Triple-A Rochester: 5 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 8 K — After two straight years in Double-A, the right-hander made his Triple-A debut a good one. May has big stuff, evidenced by his 9.44 K/9 in 2013, but has needed to cut down on the walks. Dropping a goose egg in the BB column is as good a start as he could have.

Toronto LHP Sean Nolin, Triple-A Buffalo: 5 2/3 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 1 ER, BB, 7 K, HR — Strong 2014 debut for the 24-year-old, who now boasts a 1.54 ERA in four Triple-A starts in his career.

Chicago (AL) 3B Matt Davidson, Triple-A Charlotte: 3-for-5, 2B, R — The 23-year-old third base prospect has eight hits this season, and five have been doubles, while posting a .348 average.

Houston C Max Stassi, Triple-A Oklahoma City: 2-for-4, HR, BB, 3 RBI, R — Overshadowed with the ‘Hawks by George Springer, Jon Singleton and Domingo Santana, Stassi is hitting .333 through five Triple-A games, belting his first homer at the level Tuesday.

St. Louis SS Aledmys Diaz, Double-A Springfield: 4-for-5, 3B, 2B, 3 RBI, R — The Cuban shortstop who signed this offseason for $8 million over four years is handling Double-A test well, hitting .412 with a 1.036 OPS through six games. Has also struck out five times without walking in 17 at-bats.

New York (AL) CF Mason Williams, Double-A Trenton: 2-for-5, 2 2B, 2 R, K– Speedy center fielder suffered his first strikeout of the season but also picked up his second and third doubles. Encouraging start for the toolsy Yankees prospect, who has to overcome a mixed reputation due to a history of lackadaisical play and behavioral issues.

New York (AL) C Gary Sanchez, Double-A Trenton: 3-for-4, 2B, BB, 3 RBI, R — Hitting .333 with 1.121 OPS through five games.

Kansas City OF Jorge Bonifacio, Double-A Northwest Arkansas – 1-for-5, HR, 4 RBI, R — Bonifacio’s only hitting .095 this season but added a grand slam for his first homer of the season Tuesday and also boasts a .296 OBP thanks to six walks in six games.

San Diego RHP Matt Wisler, Double-A San Antonio: 5 IP, 4 H, ER, BB, 7 K, HR — Eleven strikeouts and just one walk for the Padres’ prospect in his first two starts with a 3.38 ERA.

Colorado RHP Eddie Butler, Double-A Tulsa: 7 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 7 K — Butler has 12-to-1 K/BB ratio through 12 IP with Tulsa so far in 2014.

Pittsburgh OF Josh Bell, Class A Advanced Bradenton: 2-for-4, 3B, 2B — 21-year-old outfielder is hitting .412 with a 1.235 OPS through four games, three of which have been multi-hit efforts. Switch-hitter has as many extra-base hits (four) as strikeouts.

Miami RHP Austin Brice, Class A Advanced Jupiter: 5 IP, 3 H, 2 BB, 7 K — Brice has finally reached Jupiter after two years at Greensboro.

Arizona 3B Brandon Drury, Class A Advanced Visalia: 2-for-4, HR, 2 RBI, R, K — Drury’s homered on alternating days through the first six games of the season, belting three round-trippers and posting a 1.080 OPS in his first exposure to the California League.

New York (AL) 3B Eric Jagielo, Class A Advanced Tampa: 2-for-5, HR, 3 RBI, 2 R — 2013 first-rounder has homers in consecutive games and is breaking out after 0-for-10 start. Still has 10 strikeouts in 22 plate appearances, though.

Atlanta SS Jose Peraza, Class A Advanced Lynchburg: 3-for-5, 2B, 3 R, SB — 19-year-old hitting .318 with two steals, two doubles in five games.

Chicago (AL) OF Courtney Hawkins, Class A Advanced Winston-Salem: 3-for-5, HR, 2B, 5 RBI, 2 R — Super toolsy 2012 first-rounder is off to a fantastic start with Dash, hitting .421 with three homers, 1.481 OPS through five games. Not a full reclamation just yet, but a very encouraging sign for 20-year-old.

Oakland SS Daniel Robertson, Class A Advanced Stockton: 3-for-5, HR, 2B, BB, 2 RBI, 2 R — Monster day for the 20-year-old Ports shortstop. 2012 first-rounder is hitting .480 thus far in the California League.

Oakland OF Billy McKinney, Class A Advanced Stockton: 2-for-7, HR, 2 RBI, 2 R, 2 K — Oakland’s No. 2 prospect has three homers through five games.

Pittsburgh SS JaCoby Jones, Class A West Virginia: 3-for-3, HR, 3 RBI, 3 R — Very promising start for 2013 third-rounder. Hitting .381 with 1.028 OPS in full-season debut. Toolsy LSU product is playing shortstop exclusively this season after splitting time between the infield and outfield in college.

Toronto OF D.J. Davis, Class A Lansing: 2-for-4, HR, RBI, R — First full-season homer for the 2012 first-rounder, slashing .294/.381/.529 in first five Midwest League contests.

Colorado 3B Ryan McMahon, Class A Asheville: 1-for-3, HR, 4 BB, 5 R, K in two games — Impressive day for McMahon, who stretched his OBP to .435.

Los Angeles (AL) RHP Elliot Morris, Class A Burlington: 5 IP, H, 6 K — Stellar debut for the Angels’ 2013 fourth-rounder. The 21-year-old struck out 25 in 27 1/3 IP with Orem in 2013.

Primer Addendum: Pittsburgh Pirates

By Jake Seiner / MiLB.com

Over at MiLB.com today, we’ve offered a snapshot look at all the teams in the NL Central and prospects of note from their farm system, including the Pirates. Those pieces can give you a nice idea of who’s who within those farm systems, but we know there are plenty of diehards out there looking for more. With that in mind, I’m going to empty out the notebook with some more thoughts and quotes on some of the top Pirates prospects below:

Gregory Polanco, Outfielder

Wrote plenty about Polanco in the Pirates Primer, but there’s always more to say about the blossoming 22-year old.

Gregory PolancoThe Pirates are keeping Polanco in Triple-A to begin the 2014 season, citing his mere 252 at-bats at Double-A or above as reason to think he may not be ready. Polanco has handled advanced pitching well in Double-A, the Dominican Winter League and in Major League Spring Training, but Pittsburgh wants to see it in a larger sample.

The team hasn’t said as much, but it makes sense for the Pirates to be somewhat risk-averse when it comes to prospect promotions, especially for players with star potential like Polanco. The outfielder’s service clock begins as soon as he’s promoted, creating a six-year window in which to suck the most value out of the youngster’s abilities. Letting Polanco potentially struggle for three months in the Majors isn’t an attractive option when every penny saved carries so much weight.

As for what the Pirates need to see to promote Polanco?

“It’s more the number of at-bats,” director of Minor League operations Larry Broadway said. “He’s got a good foundation. He just needs to build on it and just see upper-level pitching and just be in those environments and continue to progress without skipping steps.”

Jameson Taillon, Right-Handed Pitcher

I wrote from Florida about some of the strides Taillon has made with his changeup and also transcribed some interesting thoughts from Broadway on the Pirates’ unorthodox instructions for their Minor League hurlers. Then in the Primer, I talked a little about what Pittsburgh wants to see Taillon accomplish in Triple-A before giving him a shot in the Majors.

I don’t have much more to add about the right-hander, but thought it was worth mentioning that he won’t be on any sort of innings limit this season, which surprised me given the Pirates reputation as a forward-thinking organization, especially when it comes to the development of pitching prospects.

Taillon threw 147 1/3 innings last year and 142 innings the year before. In 2014, the plan is to let him throw as many frames as he can, even if it means a potential jump of 50-plus innings with the extra five to seven starts he’d get finishing his season in the Majors.

“By this point, there’s not a whole lot of restriction on it,” Broadway said. “Systematically, you add however much each year and you’re at a point where the next add is, if you take the ball every start, that’s what that’s going to be. There’s not a whole lot we’re going to look at this year.”

Alen Hanson, Shortstop

Hanson, like Polanco, was a breakout performer in 2012. Though Polanco’s star continued to rise, Hanson’s stock held steady as a good, but not quite elite, prospect in 2013.MiLB: MAY 08 Bradenton Marauders at Dunedin Blue Jays

Offensively, the 5-foot-11, 170-pounder had a strong 2013, batting .281 with a .783 OPS in Bradenton before struggling a bit in Double-A. The offensive profile at shortstop could make him a star, but if he can’t stick there, he may not hit enough to truly stand out elsewhere.

That puts a lot of pressure on the leather. The athleticism and range are there, and his actions have made progress over the past couple years. The issue is that his arm is fringy for the position, meaning his feel and mechanics need to be excellent to stick long term.

For a while, Double-A Altoona manager Carlos Garcia was skeptical Hanson could make it work. This spring, Hanson has changed the skipper’s mind.

“One of the things I saw was he was more passive going to the bag,” Garcia said about Hanson in ’13. “Right now, he’s moving his feet very well, making strong throws.”

Nick Kingham, Right-handed Pitcher

Like Taillon, Kingham is a hard-throwing Texan who has made big strides with his changeup over the past few seasons. After dominating in Bradenton, the 22-year-old posted a 2.70 ERA in 14 Double-A appearances last summer.

Most impressive to Garcia, the hurler appears to have gotten better this offseason, especially from a makeup standpoint.

“Definitely in this training camp, I saw a more mature guy,” Garcia said. “He wanted to take ownership of his career. He’s in great shape. He’s working hard and throwing the ball very well. The ball is coming out of his hand very well.”

Willy Garcia, Outfielder

He’s not quite Gregory Polanco 2.0, but depending on whom you ask, Garcia might be able to breakout in a similar — if muted — fashion. The 21-year-old’s power is no joke, anchoring a strong skill set that fits well in a right-field profile. Strikeouts have been his undoing so far — 154 of them in 118 Class A Advanced games last year — but the potential is there for a bust-out campaign.

Carlos Garcia thinks Willy has enough feel offensively to tap into his power in short order.

“He can drive the ball the other way and drive it out of the ballpark,” Garcia said. “If you can do that at a young age, definitely you’re having success. He’s in good shape. He’s a young kid who wants to play. Good tools, good arm, enjoying playing. I think he’s going to be good for us.”

Josh Bell, Outfielder

Bell figures to be the marquee attraction in Bradenton this summer. Now 21, the switch-hitter has grown into a physically imposing player with a prototypical right-field body.

After suffering a tough knee injury in 2012, the 2011 second-round pick shined in his first full season last summer. His 52 extra-base hits were impressive, though his output was overlooked in part because he belted just 13 homers.Bell Matt Burton MiLB

What might have been overlooked were his 37 doubles. It’s not a strength issue with Bell — he can drive the ball out of any park. The Pirates wanted Bell focused on hard contact to the middle of the field, something he’s done consistently since returning from the knee injury.

“I think the more doubles, the better,” Broadway said. “The worst thing for a young player is hitting a bunch of home runs. Been around long enough to see it usually goes the wrong way when you go up to Double-A and Triple-A and into the big leagues. Start getting holes exposed and things like that.

“Our focus with everybody is hitter first and power second. He’s doing a job. You mention the doubles — that’s really what we’re looking for is hard contact in the middle of the field. Those things, as you move up the levels and pitchers are around the zones more and hitters get a better feel for their body, those things turn into home runs, but that’s not something we’re concerned with this early in his career.”

Austin Meadows, Outfielder

Meadows is another player covered in the Primer. One talking point among baseball people about the 18-year-old is his size. He’s already listed at 6-foot-3, 200 pounds, and he has room on his frame to add even more good weight. He runs well enough now to play center field, but realistically, he could outgrow the position before he reaches the Majors.

The Pirates aren’t very concerned about how his size might affect his defensive profile.

“Time will tell,” Broadway said. “Eighteen-year-old kids, especially a big kid like that, you never know. He could lean out and wind up being a deer out in center field, or he could bulk up and wind up being a big, strong right fielder hitting homers.”

Wyatt Mathisen, Third Base

I’ve already written a bit about Mathisen’s move from catcher to third but wanted to expand on that here. A high school shortstop, Mathisen had the talents to catch, but injuries have prevented him from getting the experience necessary to improve. With Jin-De Jhang slated to catch at Class A Advanced Bradenton and Reese McGuire handling duties in West Virginia, there would be no way to get Mathisen full-season at-bats if he was going to continue catching every day.

And thus, the end of the Mathisen catching experiment.

“Right now, it’s more full-time infielder, then we’ll readdress down the line,” Broadway said. “We just want him to get going and get playing every day. He hasn’t had the ability to do that yet with the injury issues. Now, with Reese coming along, we love them both, but Wyatt has played the infield, has played third. He’s comfortable there, so we’ll give him a chance to get out there and get comfortable again and play every day.”

Cody Dickson, Left-handed Pitcher

The 2013 fourth-rounder is a sleeper candidate in the Pirates system. Ranked 20th in the organization by MLB.com, Dickson generates tremendous movement on a fastball, which can reach the mid-90s. He gets similar fade on his changeup, pairing that with tremendous dive. His curveball is also a hard breaking pitch.

The Sam Houston State product may be held back from an innings standpoint, though. Broadway estimated Dickson threw around 200 innings last season between his various stops and said he’d be monitored more closely than the average college hurler in his first pro season.

“We have to keep an eye on him, but he’s ready to go, no restrictions,” Broadway said. “Going to let him go out there and compete, see what it’s like to be on the five-day professional routine. It’s different than college. He got a taste of it last year. Just acclimating your body to that, acclimating your mind to that type of routine.”

Harold Ramirez, Outfielder

Last year’s first-rounders, Meadows and McGuire, will be the marquee attractions in the early going at West Virginia, but don’t be surprised if the Power’s biggest crowd-pleaser is Ramirez. The speedy Colombian outfielder has big-time tools, and at 19, could be the next Pirates prospect to break out on the national scene.

“He’s got bat, he’s got arm, he’s got power in there, he’s got instincts on the bases,” Broadway said. “He’s come a long way. He had the tools to start. We’ve taken it slow with him. He came over at 16. He didn’t go through the academy first. He’s been young. He’s going to play every day at West Virginia this year, get out under the lights right away. We’re looking forward to seeing him roam around in the outfield a little bit.”

Minoring in Twitter: Mike Olt in a bathtub

Cubs prospect Tayler Scott is the first South African player to be drafted by a Major League team… at least according to his Twitter bio. He’s not the first person to become so frustrated with ping pong that he wanted to crawl under a rock and disappear, though. Cubs 2012 first-round pick Albert Almora has the shot:

Nick Green has been around a while (he was drafted back in 1998!) but, despite his 34 years, he still has the ladies chasing him via spam Gmail messages, something that did not exist when he signed with the Braves last century:

But do you know who was a big deal back in 1997 when Nick Green graduated high school? Kenny G, the guy who earned a place in the Guinness Book of World Records for playing the longest note ever recorded on a saxophone that very year. And all these years later, it came together:

A’s No. 5 prospect Sonny Gray is ready for some learnin’

Blue Jays converted pitcher Justin Jackson reveals a look into the pregame dance party in Lansing:

This one is actually pretty funny, too (wait for it)

Cody Decker has had a hard time adjusting to life ever since Martha Stewart served her time…

… so much so that he’s acquired several guard dogs, in case Ms. Stewart shows up to accent his apartment with thoughtful table decor:

And then there’s Pirates No. 6 prospect Josh Bell, who definitely ordered some fries with that:

That comes to 12,040 calories.

Rangers No. 2 prospect Mike Olt:

  • Loves Titanic (which was released the year before Nick Green was drafted)
  • Prefers bubble baths over showers
  • Hasn’t quite mastered the whole H / C knob in his tub to find warm water:

I’m assuming he’s talking about postgame ice baths in the clubhouse, but who knows. Also, I feel obligated to include a Tony Sanchez Tweet, and this is follows up last week’s revealing post about Andrew Lambo actually being Jersey mobster Gyp Rosetti. Behold, Tony Sanchez’s first Instagram video (parental discretion advised for brief language):

Chipotle Tweets of the Week

Big news this week in the Chipotle world as CNN reports the Mexican restaurant to the Minor League stars admitted it uses genetically modified ingredients in most of its popular dishes (primarily soybean oil). Studies have shown that ingesting high amounts of genetically modified organisms can lead to higher rates of heart disease. So, we’ll await the reaction from the baseball universe. Until then, we present the highs and lows of ordering double portions of genetically-modified meat:

Interview Outtakes: Pirates Outfielders Josh Bell and Gregory Polanco

Earlier this morning, MiLB.com published the first installment (link here) of my joint Q&A with Pirates outfielders Josh Bell and Gregory Polanco, who are ranked sixth and fifth respectively among Pittsburgh farmhands. I would encourage you to check that out initially. Below is a second installment of outtake questions and answers. Enjoy.

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QUESTIONS FOR JOSH BELL:

Me: What’s your your daily routine at the IMG Academy?

Bell: From about 8:30 to 9:00 [a.m.], we stretch. For the next hour, we train our muscles, train on the glute and the hamstrings and the hip flexors to power through while we run. We do different drills, whether it be ladders or just working on karaoke or sled training. An hour is a long time to be doing anything, really. It’s the toughest part of the day, but it’s nice to see results. Even in this first week, I feel like my running mechanics have sharpened up a little bit, so that’s good.

Me: Do you have time for other stuff?

Bell: It’s an all-day thing. I have time after lunch until we play ball. Pedro Alvarez is up here right now. It’s cool to see a big leaguer. Everyone else is in the Minor Leagues. J.R. Murphy is with us. Just guys trying to get better for the upcoming season.

Me: What outfield position do you see yourself at long-term?

Bell: I got moved to right field last year. I don’t really care. The outfield is fun [no matter the position]. I love tracking balls, so wherever, depends on what the team needs.

Me: Is there a ballplayer you model yourself after?

Bell: Do I model myself after anyone specifically? I follow a couple guys on Twitter if that means anything, I guess, for the off-the-field aspect. I really like [Andrew] McCutchen and Matt Kemp, younger guys that have had success in the game. You gotta love Mike Trout, the way he plays.

Me: Have you met McCutchen?

Bell: I shook hands with him once and went to a players-only question-and-answer session that was like 45 minutes long. We could pick his brain and ask him whatever we wanted. It was cool behind the scenes, since we’re players  we probably get more answers to our questions than reporters would. I just realized he was a normal guy. It was really cool.

Me: Aside from staying healthy, what are your goals for 2013?

Bell: I haven’t made a goal sheet for next season. This offseason, I just want to get as strong as I can and not leave anything in the tank. I have nothing to worry about this season because I know I have prepared myself the way I know I needed to. I’ll definitely go into Spring Training with a lot more confidence and being more trusting than I was last year.

Me: Where do both expect to begin the 2013 season?

Bell: I would expect [to be back at West Virginia], but I guess that depends on how I play in Spring Training. We’ll see.

bucs480

QUESTIONS FOR GREGORY POLANCO (@El_Coffee):

Me: Were there adjustments you made before or during last season to put yourself in a position to have such success?

Polanco: I made a lot of adjustments before and during the season. You never stop making adjustments.

Me: Were you surprised by your breakout 2012? Does it raise your expectations for the 2013 campaign?

Polanco: I wasn’t surprised because I worked really hard for that, and thank god I had a great season, and it definitely has risen my expectations for this year.

Me: What is your favorite thing about playing in the Minors?

Polanco: Being able to work on my game everyday, so I can maximize my tools the day I arrive in Pittsburgh.

Me: Who is the toughest starting pitcher you have faced in the Minors?

Polanco: Jose Fernandez from the Marlins.

Me: What part of your game needs the most work?

Polanco: My consistency.

Me: What is your long-term baseball goal?

Polanco: Playing 20 years in the big leagues.

Me: Where do both expect to begin the 2013 season?

Polanco: I’m not sure but I will probably start in the FSL [with the Bradenton Marauders].

Me: Aside from baseball, what is your passion?

Polanco: Video games since I was a little kid. I’m addicted to PS3.

Me: Lastly, is there anything you want your fans and our readers to know about you?

Polanco: Everybody calls me “El Coffee.” It comes from my skin color. My coach growing up gave me [the name]. Growing up, I was a pitcher, too, tall lanky lefty.

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