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

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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.

Rene Rivera out 4-6 weeks after undergoing knee surgery

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Angels catcher Rene Rivera will be sidelined for up to six weeks, the club announced Friday. He was placed on the 10-day disabled list with right knee inflammation last Sunday and underwent surgery for a torn meniscus.

Rivera, 34, signed on as a backup catcher to the Angels’ Martin Maldonado back in January. Since then, he’s slashed a healthy .259/.322/.481 with six extra-base hits and an .804 OPS in 59 plate appearances this spring. While manager Mike Scioscia doesn’t anticipate any complications with the veteran catcher’s recovery process, the team will have to wait and see whether he can maintain that kind of consistent production upon his return this summer.

In the interim, rookie backstop Jose Briceno is expected to shoulder Rivera’s workload. The 25-year-old is working through his second year in the Angels’ organization and currently batting .261/.272/.500 with six home runs in 92 PA for Triple-A Salt Lake. He’s likely to make his big league debut sometime in the next week.