In honor of the Pirates’ 20th consecutive losing season and the Red Sox going 5-13 against the playoff bound Orioles (worst head to head record since 1970), it’s time to look towards the future in Pittsburgh and Boston and compare two of their better hitting OF prospects – Josh Bell and Jackie Bradley Jr. As we all know, the Pirates’ prospect lineup is stacked which is due, in part, to their decision to draft Josh Bell as the 2nd round of the 2011 draft. Hailing from Dallas Jesuit, the switch hitting Josh Bell was one of the best high school bats in the country and considered by many as a guaranteed 1st rounder. When he fell to the 2nd, the Pirates couldn’t resist the temptation. Before the 2012 season, Bell was the 69th best prospect according to www.mlb.com.
While playing with West Virginia in the Class A South-Atlantic league, Bell tore his meniscus in the knee early on. In his first 62 at-bats with the Power, Bell was batting .274 with 17 hits, 1 HR and 11 RBI’s. Because of this small sample size, we have to rely on his senior year of high school line in which he put up monster power numbers – hitting a HR every 5.8 at-bats while only striking out 5 times. He looks destined to play a corner OF spot one day but make no mistake, his bat is what prospectors are after when they buy his Chrome. His swing and plate discipline point towards a successful hitting career and his above average defense won’t hurt either.
Most prospect listings still have Bell in the Top 100 (e.g – #73 at www.minorleagueball.com) but some have him as “honorable mention” (www.deepleagues.com), a ranking that is sure to depress Chrome prices even further. Bell is your typical high risk/high reward prospect but with his power potential and cheap card prices, he’s worth the gamble. Any chance of a 2012 return were dashed when he had a rehab setback but all signs point towards a healthy return in 2013. His injury has certainly contributed towards his depressed Chrome prices so if you want to roll the dice on doubling your money, this is your guy with the power upside to make you some profit.
As a stark contrast to Bell’s style/potential, power will not be a part of Jackie Bradley Jr.’s game. Hailing from Virginia, Bradley Jr. had a successful high school career and went on to play 2 years of ball at the University of South Carolina where he hit a respectable .368 with 13 HR’s,56 runs and 60 RBI’s in 67 games during 2010. He was drafted 40th overall in the 2011 supplemental draft after being named the 2010 college World Series Most Outstanding Player.
After the draft, he joined the Salem Red Sox in high class A and subsequently the Portland Sea Dog’s AA squad in 2012 where in 128 games, he averaged a respectable .315 with 42 doubles, 90 runs scored, 9 HR’s and 63 RBI’s. He also added 24 stolen bases. He is a well above average defender and, despite not possessing elite speed, has excellent range in the OF and makes difficult plays look easy. He may even contend for a gold glove or two during his career but, as prospectors know, hitting is what will drive his Chrome prices.
Bradley Jr. seems destined to hit at the top of the lineup as his tools indicate a plus hitter for average. He’s not likely to be a consistent .300 hitter but maybe .270-.280 seems more realistic, especially in Boston. He’s probably more of a single digit HR guy who, because of his relatively small frame, does not fill out a lot and remains relatively quick. My take on Bradley Jr. is to take a position in his Chrome but get out when he gets called up. The Boston hype machine will support his prices and he will continue to generate a buzz; however, once he hits the majors, his lack of power will limit his card price upside.
Current prices are as follows:
Josh Bell: Base Auto ($20); Ref Auto ($40); Blue Auto ($80)
Jackie Bradley Jr: Base Auto ($30); Ref Auto ($60); Blue Auto ($120-150)
Based on current prices, I like the upside of Bell but will probably get in on both for the interim. I expect Bell’s prices to double come 2013 when he gets a chance to remind the baseball world why he was drafted as a power hitter. Bradley Jr. is a buy and hold until he gets the call – likely sometime in the late 2013 or early 2014 season. As always, happy prospecting.