The “Other” Josh Bell


As many S2S readers know, my Pirates (note: I don’t actually own the Pirates) were able to draft and more importantly sign prep outfielder Josh Bell this past year.  I say ‘more importantly’ because Bell was alleged to be unsignable.  In fact, that he is why the Pirates were able to draft Bell in the second round in the first place; no team wanted to risk a draft pick in the first or even supplemental round on him.  Thus, all signs pointed to Bell attending the University of Texas where he seemed enthralled with the academics and general college experience, the reasons he wanted to delay turning pro.  Bell was eventually talked into becoming a Pirate by a cool 5 million dollar signing bonus.

In 2010, another prep outfielder with a comparable profile took the same path as Bell, at least up until the signing part.  Austin Wilson’s story was a little different at the beginning – drafted by the Cardinals and committed to Stanford rather than the Pirates and Texas – although most of the tale was eerily similar – a bat first prep outfielder with outstanding potential but signability issues due to a commitment to a university with strong academics.  However, Wilson’s story split from Bell’s at a crucial point; he is now a Stanford Cardinal rather than a St. Louis one.

By his own admission, Wilson stood at 6’4, 227 lbs in May before he was drafted in 2010.   The Stanford website lists him currently at 6’5, 245 lbs. The outfielder is toolsy and athletic, although he’s more bat and less glove.  He runs fairly well and should be an above-average defensive outfielder in either corner with a plus arm that will allow him to play rightfield.  His calling card is his immense raw power, which garners comparisons to former fellow Southern California prep outfielder Mike Stanton, at least when he came out of high school.  While Wilson’s power allows him to put on impressive batting practice shows, he’s had trouble while in the batting box in actual games.  His primary issue is pitch recognition, specifically laying off breaking balls down in the zone and in the dirt.  However, if he can improve in that aspect he has a virtually limitless ceiling.

As a freshman at Stanford, Wilson had a solid, although unspectacular season.  He hit .311 over 55 games, a decent mark for a college player in major conference baseball.  Wilson also displayed a bit of his raw power, homering five times.  That seems like a low figure, but with the new bats in college baseball, that number was actually tops on Stanford’s team.  Right field was his primary defensive position, indicating that the Stanford coaching staff decided to facilitate a necessary future move early.  So far this year, Wilson has played three games and is 2-for-8, with a double.  He has also walked four times and struck out three times, along with being hit by a pitch.  Wilson’s bland season in 2011 left him at #16 on Baseball America’s recent list ranking college sophomores based on draft status.  Still, he has an incredibly exciting bat, fueled by his immense raw power, which still gives him a tremendous ceiling. As such, Wilson will certainly be a player to watch over the next few years.


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