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Pirates minor league report: Bell concluding breakout season

| Saturday, Aug. 30, 2014, 7:42 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Trib Total Media
Altoona Curve right fielder Josh Bell scores past Bowie catcher Michael Ohlman during the fifth inning Thursday, July 17, 2014, at Peoples Natural Gas Field in Altoona.

Josh Bell was promoted to Double-A Altoona in mid-July, so he wasn't expecting that six weeks later he'd be named the Florida State League Player of the Year.

It shows how well Bell performed in High-A Bradenton. He was able to remain atop the stat sheet with a .335 average, .502 slugging percentage and .886 on-base plus slugging percentage in 84 games. He also had 20 doubles, four triples, nine home runs, 53 RBIs and 45 runs scored.

“That was actually really shocking, but it's definitely an awesome accomplishment for me, my family and my teammates down there,” said the switch-hitting Bell, who turned 22 on Aug. 14. “It has been awhile since I've been there, but I guess I deserved it.”

Bell is on the disabled list after injuring a knee sliding into third base this month. He doesn't expect to play another game for Altoona before the season ends Monday, but the outfielder already is working on taking ground balls in anticipation of a move to first base in the Arizona Fall League.

The Pirates' top position prospect said the organization approached him about the move about a month ago. He was a shortstop until high school and said he played first base “a little” growing up, but it has been awhile since he has been in the infield.

The Pirates didn't clarify whether this would be a permanent switch, Bell said, but he is approaching it as an option worth trying.

“It's not going to hurt knowing another position,” he said. “It's never a bad thing in this sport. Look at Josh Harrison and Brock Holt. When you can play all over the diamond, you get playing time. Whatever helps me get to the next level. If I have to catch, I'll try to learn.”

Bell likely will finish the season with a .287 average, .309 slugging percentage and .652 OPS in 24 games with Altoona to go along with his gaudy FSL numbers. One area of improvement of which Bell is most proud is that his strikeouts dropped from 90 in 119 games in 2013 to 55 in 108 games this season.

“Last year I guess the thing that ate me up was strikeouts,” he said. “I really wanted to cut that down. In the offseason I worked on making consistent contact, and that's what showed this year. I've been able to put the ball in play more.

“And coming off the injury two years ago, I just wanted to be a better outfielder, and I think I did that as well.

“The work I did in the offseason with my father and people back home really paid off.”

Karen Price is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach her at kprice@tribweb.com or via Twitter @KarenPrice_Trib.

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