Fellow Pirates prospect Diaz goes 0-for-2 in All-Star showcase
By Jenifer Langosch
CINCINNATI -- Josh Bell was back at the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game for a second straight year, but this time showcasing himself at a different position.
A year after serving as a U.S. Team outfielder, Bell started at first base and, after striking out in his first at-bat, blasted a two-run, fourth-inning home run to help the U.S. to a four-run lead and eventual 10-1 win. It was a show of raw power that was often talked about when the Pirates took Bell in the second round of the 2011 Draft but that has been absent much of this season.
Bell entered the Sunday showcase having shown an uptick in average with Double-A Altoona, but at the sacrifice of power. He hit four homers and 13 doubles in his first 80 games this season.
"I feel like I've hit for power in the past. I'm hitting for average right now," Bell said. "I feel like there are guys in the big leagues who I can aspire to be like who are hitting for both power and average."
Bell, ranked by MLB Pipeline as the Pirates' third-best prospect, was accompanied by first-time Futures participant Elias Diaz, who has spent the season splitting catching duties with Tony Sanchez at Triple-A Indianapolis. Diaz, No. 11 on MLB Pipeline's list of Pittsburgh prospects, entered Sunday's game to catch the bottom of the sixth. He went 0-for-2 at the plate.
"For me, it's an honor to be here and to represent the Pirates, represent the organization, even represent the world and my country," Diaz said. "For me, it's a special moment."
Bell's conversion from outfielder to first baseman began shortly after his last Futures Game appearance, when the Pirates informed the 22-year-old that he'd officially switch positions in instructional league. The work began there, continued through the Arizona Fall League and then into this season.
"I'm finally feeling comfortable over there," Bell said Sunday. "I have enough reps in to know where I'm supposed to be, to read ground balls as best I can."
Bell, who last played an infield position in high school, pointed to the speed of play as the biggest adjustment in the positional move.
"He has come a long way since last fall, when we moved him," said Larry Broadway, Pittsburgh's director of Minor League operations. "He is still learning the nuances of the position but has done a nice job of getting the basics down."
Diaz played 40 games at catcher as part of his timeshare with Sanchez. Signed out of Venezuela in 2008, it looked for many years like Diaz would be a defensive-only catcher. That began to change in 2013, however, and Diaz continues to put up respectable offensive numbers (.265/.328/.372) at Triple-A this year.
"He has come a long way since 2012 in [low-A] West Virginia," Broadway said. "He really started to take steps forward in 2013, focusing on his approach, and has taken off since then -- and has been pretty consistent."