The 2015 SiriusXM Futures Game will take place Sunday, July 12th at 3 PM on the MLB Network. This game is always a great chance to see some of the top up and coming players in the minor leagues. The Pittsburgh Pirates find themselves with one representative on both the U.S. and World teams and also had one of their managers selected to the coaching staff of the U.S. Team.
2011 second round draft pick Josh Bell will be making his second consecutive appearance on the roster for the U.S. team. After starting his professional career in right field, Bell began working out at first base in the fall last year at first during his time in the Arizona Fall League. He is continuing his development at that position in Altoona this year since the Pirates do not have any other first base prospects in the upper minor leagues.
While Bell is not showing the prodigious home run power that teams typically look for in a first baseman, he is slashing .313/.380/.433 and has a 36/39 BB/K ratio (these and all stats throughout the article as of Thursday, July 9th). With Pedro Alvarez only under team control through 2016, Bell is (at least at the moment) the heir apparent to take over first base. Since he is only in AA Altoona, a promotion to the big leagues could happen at some point in 2016, depending on how his development in Altoona goes and when he is promoted to Indianapolis.
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Representing the Pirates on the World team will be catcher Elias Diaz. Like Bell, he has not shown much home run power in 2015 (his career high for home runs in a season is six). His line of .266/.329/.374 and 21/30 BB/K ratio would be welcomed by just about every MLB team. But it is what Diaz does behind the plate that could give the Pirates a strong backstop for years to come.
Currently at AAA Indianapolis, Diaz has thrown out 28% of attempted base stealers. Compared to the catchers in the major leagues, this would put him somewhere around the top 25. While this is a far cry from what he did in the lower minors (throwing out a ridiculous 41% in 2010 in the Gulf Coast League) it would put him right around what Francisco Cervelli and Chris Stewart have done this year. Diaz could potentially see a call up to the parent club in September or sooner if Cervelli or Stewart go down with an injury, but he will certainly have a chance to make the team next Spring Training.
Finally, the Pirates will have one more representative at the Futures Game, but he won’t be on the field. Altoona manager Tom Prince has been named to the U.S. team’s coaching staff. Prince has led the Curve to one of the best records in the Eastern League and has them poised to make the playoffs. His inclusion on the coaching staff for the U.S team shows that it’s not just the players in the Pittsburgh organization that deserve recognition.
Check back on Monday for a recap of how Diaz and Bell did in the game. The Futures game is an opportunity to show fans of other teams a sample of what the Pittsburgh Pirates have in the minor leagues with some players who could contribute in the near future.