Josh Bell

2011 MLB Draft – Round 2 wrap: Josh Bell goes to Pirates


The Pirates grabbed the best player available to start round two, taking Texas prep outfielder Josh Bell with the 61st overall selection.  Bell, who would have gone in the middle of round one on talent, told teams not to select him because he was planning on honoring his commitment to the University of Texas.

A switch-hitter, Bell should offer 25-homer power down the line.  He was a center fielder in high school, but he’s expected to move to a corner in the pros.  That would have been the case even if he didn’t go to a team that already had Andrew McCutchen.  He’ll be a very tough sign, but if the Pirates can get both he and No. 1 overall pick Gerrit Cole under contract, they’ll look like the big winners from this year’s draft.

Some other round two thoughts:

– Daniel Norris, the other big tumbler, went to the Blue Jays at No. 74.  They’ll have to try to buy him out of a Clemson scholarship.  It won’t be an easy assignment, but since they had another second-round selection just four picks later (which they used to grab right-hander Jeremy Gabryszwski), they could afford to gamble.  With his low-90s fastball, curve and changeup, Norris would have gone in the 15-25 range on talent.

– Vanderbilt third baseman Jason Esposito was taken by the Orioles at No. 64 after a somewhat disappointing junior season.  He lacks star potential, but he could be an average regular in time and he’s polished enough to potentially progress to Double-A next year.

– After playing it safe with their two first-round picks, the Brewers grabbed Puerto Rican right-hander Jorge Lopez at No. 70.  He might have a higher ceiling than either Taylor Jungmann or Jed Bradley with his fastball-curve combo.

– Arkansas catcher James McCann was plucked by the Tigers at No. 76.  No relation.

– The Red Sox, who may well have been hoping that either Bell or Norris would fall into their laps, went with NYC high school outfielder Willams Jerez. He has tools aplenty, but there are questions about whether he’s really 19.

– Some suspected the Giants might take a catcher in round one, but they waited and still got Oregon State’s Andrew Susac at pick No. 86.  He’s a better talent than the guy they actually got at No. 29 (shortstop Joe Panik), but as a draft-eligible sophomore, he probably won’t sign for less than first-round money.  He’s a fine defender, so he’ll only need to be so good offensively to make it as a regular.

– After the Red Sox came into their backyard, the Yankees went down to Texas to grab Longhorns lefty Sam Stafford with the 88th pick.  If one trusts Baseball America, he was a second straight big overdraft for the team after Dante Bichette Jr. was picked 51st overall.  Stafford wasn’t in BA’s top 200.

Maybe Alcides Escobar shouldn’t bat leadoff

Alcides Escobar
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Alcides Escobar finished with a .292 OBP this year. He came in at .246 in 117 at-bats in August and .257 in 109 at-bats between September and October, so he wasn’t exactly flying high entering the postseason. Still, that didn’t stop Ned Yost from putting him into the leadoff spot for Thursday’s Game 1 against the Astros.

Yost finally did reconsider hitting Escobar first in September. It took Alex Gordon‘s return to health, plus the previous addition of Ben Zobrist to the lineup, in order to make that happen. However, it didn’t stick. Escobar hit ninth in each of his starts from Sept. 7-26, batting .236 with a .276 OBP during that span. With five games left to go, he was suddenly returned to the leadoff spot. The Royals went on to win all five games. Yost saw it as a sign, even though Escobar went 5-for-22 with no walks in those games.

Escobar went 0-for-4 in Thursday’s loss to the Astros. He did not swing at the first pitch of the game, which probably explains the defeat.

It’s been difficult to argue with Yost since last year’s World Series run and this year’s incredible run out of the game. The blind spot with Escobar, though, gets rather infuriating. One can defend hitting him leadoff against the Astros’ lefties. His career OBP against southpaws is .319 (.316 this year). Against righties, he’s the most obvious No. 9 hitter alive, with a career .258/.290/.342 line (.252/.284/.314 this year). He’s not a pace-setter. He’s not a spark plug. He’s a liability.

Astros top Royals in Game 1 of ALDS

Houston Astros' Jose Altuve, left, celebrates with teammate Luis Valbuena after scoring a run during the first inning in Game 1 of baseball's American League Division Series against the Kansas City Royals, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

After shutting out the Yankees in the AL Wild Card game on Tuesday, the Astros beat the Royals 5-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS on Thursday at Kauffman Stadium. Road teams are now 4-0 to begin the 2015 postseason.

The Astros grabbed an early 3-0 lead against Yordano Ventura through two innings. Chris Young took over for the Royals after a 47-minute rain delay and was very effective for the most part, allowing just a solo homer to George Springer over four innings while striking out seven batters. Colby Rasmus, who homered in the Wild Card game, took Ryan Madson deep in the eighth inning to give the Astros’ bullpen some extra breathing room.

Collin McHugh stayed in after the rain delay and ended up tossing six innings while allowing just four hits and one walk. Kendrys Morales did all the damage against him with a pair of solo homers. He’s the first Royals player to hit two home runs in a postseason game since George Brett in the 1985 ALCS.

The Royals’ offense showed some signs of life in the bottom of the eighth inning with back-to-back two-out hits against Will Harris, but Oliver Perez got Eric Hosmer to foul out to end the threat. Luke Gregerson tossed a scoreless ninth inning to finish off the victory.

Consistent with their identity during the regular season, the Astros won despite striking out 14 times. The same goes for the Royals, as they struck out just four times. Despite putting the ball into play more often, the Kansas City lineup wasn’t able to muster anything aside from the home runs by Morales.

Game 2 of the ALDS will begin Friday at 3:45 p.m. ET. Scott Kazmir will pitch for the Astros and Johnny Cueto will get the ball for the Royals.

George Springer homers to extend Astros’ lead over Royals

Houston Astros' George Springer (4) celebrates with teammates after scoring a run in the first inning in Game 1 of baseball's American League Division Series against the Kansas City Royals, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
AP Photo/Charlie Riedel
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After Kendrys Morales brought the Royals within one run in the bottom of the fourth inning with his second solo home run of the game, George Springer took Chris Young deep in the top of the fifth to extend the Astros’ lead to 4-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS.

According to Statcast, the ball traveled an estimated 422 feet and left Springer’s bat at 109 mph. Royals fans are happy it was just a solo home run. It could have been worse, as Jose Altuve singled to lead off the fifth inning before being thrown out trying to steal second base during Springer’s at-bat.

The Royals will try to answer as we move to the bottom of the fifth inning at Kauffman Stadium.