Black Knight Josh Bell Is Living Up To His Potential

Make way for his ascension to MLB superstar.

With the historic accomplishments of rookies Aaron Judge and Cody Bellinger, Black Knight Josh Bells breakout season has gone under the radar. Its a season that is finally justifying the record-breaking deal the Pittsburgh Pirates offered the blue-chip prospect in 2011 so that hed forgo his college baseball scholarship to the University of Texas at Austin.

Bell, who signed a $5 million signing bonus (the highest for a player not drafted in the first round) as the team’s second pick that season, has already made Pirates history. In late June, he broke the great Ralph Kiner’s 70-year-old franchise record for the most home runs by a Pittsburgh rookie before the All-Star break when Bell launched his 15th blast against Tampa Bay.

ESPN Stats & Info on Twitter

Most HR by @Pirates rookie before All-Star Break 2017 Josh Bell 16 1946 Ralph Kiner 15 More from @EliasSports: https://t.co/MV5hfffTgr

He’s bombed six more since, to move into some elite territory.

Pirates on Twitter

Josh Bell is just the 5th Pirates rookie to hit 20+ HRs, joining Garrett Jones (21) Jason Bay (26), Ralph Kiner (23) & Johnny Rizzo (23)

Bell has hit at every level of minor league baseball. He batted .303 in the minors and averaged a home run every 47.8 plate appearances. We saw glimpses of his potential power in the second MLB at-bat of his career in 2016.

Josh Bell Grand Slam (Greg Brown Call)

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And through his first 159 games in the majors this season, Bell was averaging a dinger every 25.7 plate appearances. His power outage transformed almost as soon as he hit The Show. He’s hitting an uncharacteristic .261, but his 21 homers is good for fourth among MLB rookies. Hes third in RBI (72), second in walks (51) and tied for third in runs scored (63).  Hes obviously maturing as a player and has become a key cog in the Pirates movement.

[Twenty homers] is not something I wouldve expected out of myself a couple years ago, Bell told post-gazette.com.

According to the publication, Bell reflected on his power summit with Hall of Famer Dave Winfield at the Futures Game in 2015.  One of the most feared sluggers in MLB history told Bell,  “Average comes first. Power will come whenever you make it to the big leagues.

While the time between getting drafted and being an impact big leaguer might have taken longer than club executives wanted, Bell has arrived. The fact that he is an African-American first baseman is also worthy of note.

There hasn’t been a superstar African-American first baseman since Ryan Howard. Brothers dont usually play that position and the 6-foot-2, 230-pounders forte is hitting, not picking it. But he has improved over the years and is turning into a respectable big league first baseman.

Josh Bell Defensive Work at First Base

Josh Bell doing defensive drills at first base in Indianapolis. For more, subscribe to http://www.piratesprospects.com/subscribe.

As the Pirates sit seven games out of the final Wild Card spot with just 38 games left, playoff aspirations subside and the future becomes more important. With Bell developing into a big-time MLB masher, the Pirates have a solid piece at first base for the next decade.

JR Gamble joined The Shadow League in 2012. The General Manager of Content & Social Media is in his 25th year of covering sports and culture professionally. He has covered a wide variety of major sports and entertainment topics across different mediums, including radio, newspapers, magazines and national TV. His passion is baseball, the culturing of baseball and preserving and documenting the historically-impactful accomplishments and contributions of African-Americans in baseball.