There are not many people in the baseball industry that know new Bowie Baysox third baseman Josh Bell better than De Jon Watson.
Watson is the assistant general manager in charge of player development for the Los Angeles Dodgers, the team that traded Bell to the Orioles.
He has gotten to know the player and person well since Bell began his Dodgers’ minor league career in 2005.
This year, before Bell and Steve Johnson were traded to the Orioles for George Sherrill, the 22-year-old, switch-hitting Bell was playing at Double-A Chatanooga.
He was hitting .296-11-52 with 30 doubles.
“Josh was having a solid season for us. More power was coming as the season went on,” Watson said. “He has really made strides this year on offense.”
“He has big, raw power. I think it will be above average in time and he has a chance to be a middle of the order run producer. He’s a good looking young kid who makes great adjustments from at bat to at bat. He’s a very competitive young man, the Orioles got a good player.”
Watson said the Dodgers worked with Bell this year to reduce his lower body movement at bat. He has very quick hands and bat speed.
Bell this year is batting .335-11-45 in 230 at bats with a .600 slugging percentage as a lefty hitter, but only .212-0-7 in 104 at bats with a .269 slugging percentage as a right-handed batter.
Watson said that disparity was not a concern for the Dodgers.
“Most switch-hitters have years where they are better from one side. For Josh, it’s a matter of seeing more left-handed pitching. His power is equal from both sides, he just needs the reps (vs. lefties).”
He said the Dodgers never considered having Bell bat only from the left side.
“Never, not even close to thinking that way,” Watson said.
Bell is 1 for 4 so far with Bowie, but has missed the last two games with a minor ankle injury. He should return to action soon.
Bell, a fourth-round pick in 2005, lost weight to get down to 220 pounds and said that has helped him a lot on defense.
“We tried to clean him up at third and get him quicker with the exchange from glove to hand,” Watson said. “He has plenty of range and lost weight last year making him more agile with a good first step. He just needs to be more consistent with his throws. He has tools as you’ll see when you get to watch him.
“He’s a great kid that worked his tail off. We had a lot of long talks over the three years he was here. His work ethic and work habits are solid. We had conversations on what he needs to do to play at the Major League level and he was open and receptive to those things. I think it’s just a matter of time before you see him in Baltimore.”
When the O’s acquired Bell, Andy MacPhail expressed confidence that Bell would remain a third baseman. Watson said the Dodgers saw it that way, also.
“I think he has a chance to play a solid third base in the Majors. Josh being a former basketball player has some quickness. I could see him staying there.”
The final question to Watson was this one. Could Bell progress enough to help the Orioles in the Majors next year?
“From our standpoint, he was a kid that was definitely on the come.”
Coming Soon - In the next few days check here for Watson’s opinion and comments on new Baysox pitcher Steve Johnson.