Pittsburgh Pirates Monday Minute: Andrew McCutchen, Josh Bell, Prospects
Editorial: This week’s Monday Minute will focus on Andrew McCutchen‘s April and Josh Bell‘s first month as the everyday starter. In addition to those two, a quick look at some of the more impressive prospects so far this season.
Is Andrew McCutchen back? Many fans feel that Andrew McCutchen is not necessarily back to his pre-2016 form, but he is improved from last year. This April he hit for a .244 batting average along with .327 on-base percentage and an 18.4 percent strikeout rate. These numbers are not necessarily great, but in a way, they do suggest some optimism. In April’s from 2014 to 2016, Andrew McCutchen has actually hit for a lower batting average than he did this April. Over those three years, Cutch accumulated an average of .238 compared to his .244 this year. Furthermore, he only hit .226 through the first month of last year. Andrew McCutchen is a notoriously slow starter. Last year, his slow start was extended until the last two months of the season when he heated up. Hopefully, his better start to this year leads to a hotter summer for Cutch.
After the first two weeks of the season, many fans were already calling for Josh Bell to be sent to the minors. It is funny how everyone has wanted nothing but for him to be called up. Last year he finally got the call and put on a very good debut. This year he was given the keys to first base. Finally, the Pittsburgh Pirates seemed to have a high upside and potential impact first baseman. This is something that fans have clamored to get for years.
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The Pittsburgh Pirates announced right before Spring Training that Bell would be out a couple of weeks due to a minor knee surgery. Something that was not considered a big deal, but would set him back. Some questioned if he would be 100 percent for the regular season. Yet, people forgot about the set back when Bell was not performing in the first two weeks. Was it frustrating? Yes, but send him to Triple-A and have who play first? That was not going to be the right decision and Bell proved he just needed more time at the plate. Whether it was because he was a little behind due to a late start in Spring, or if he was pressing given that it was his first Spring opening in the majors, Bell worked his way through it.
Now, over his last 7 games, he has been the Pittsburgh Pirates best hitter. Bell has hit .350 with two home runs, five walks to only six strikeouts, and an OPS of 1.130. Bell is one of the most advanced hitters to come through the Pittsburgh Pirates minor leagues in recent history. He started off slow, but is now showing why he was given the largest signing bonus ever for a second round pick.
In the minors, there have been a few prospects who are not highly touted but have really performed well. If you read the minor league roundups these names should be familiar to you. Ty Moore for the West Virginia Power has batted .377 and has an OPS of .961 through his first 18 games this season. Alex McRae, a former 10th round pick, has made five starts and has accumulated an ERA of 2.12 so far. Chris Bostick was acquired from the Nationals right before the season ended in 2016. So far through his first 21 games, he has posted an average of .337 with a .910 OPS. These are three players who are not considered Top 30 prospects, but they are outperforming mostly all of them. Continue to keep an eye on how they perform as the season goes on.