Thanks, everyone, for your questions.
WHYGZaneSmith: Should we be a lot more excited about Josh Bell than we seem to be? I was just looking at the International League leaderboards and he’s all over them. Second-highest OBP behind a 27-year-old, tied for fifth-highest wRC+ behind a bunch of older guys (the youngest is 25-year-old Aaron Hicks), ninth-highest SLG with the only youngish guys ahead of him being Richie Shaffer (24) and Maikel Franco (22), both of whom made the majors—Shaffer with a 98 wRC+ and Franco with a 128. His overall offensive profile in the IL seemed a lot like Franco’s, and I don’t think we’d mind Franco’s production in the majors.
Maybe the question is, am I getting overexcited about Bell, seeing as how his larger sample in Altoona wasn’t as good? But his plate discipline was excellent across both levels, and his higher ISO and BABIP might mean that he was hitting the ball with more authority.
I've wondered this same thing. It's impossible to tell what 145 great plate appearances at Triple-A really mean. Were they mostly fluky? Or were they the beginning of a breakout after Bell spent several months at Altoona learning a new position? The numbers that encourage me most about Bell's stint in Indianapolis are the 15 strikeouts and 21 walks. Those show a very advanced approach at the plate, and generally against pitchers who are pretty capable of throwing strikes. His .347 batting average was artificially high, but his hit tool obviously looks legit, and I'd much rather have a good hitting prospect with great plate discipline than a prospect with great raw power but less discipline. Bell doesn't have much power yet, but the foundation is there for him to develop it in the next couple years.
Steamer, for what it's worth, thinks Bell will be good right out of the gate, posting a .332 OBP next year as a rookie and hitting 10 home runs over 600 plate appearances, which would be more homers than he hit in either of the last two seasons in the minors.
Sorry, not a very satisfying answer. I guess the real answer is, "I don't know, but I think you're asking the right question."
Joey Mooney: I was at the Wild Card Game and realized that this year I didn’t see Gerrit Cole throw near 100 MPH very often. He used to get stronger as the game went on, but it seems like he was peaking around 97 MPH this year. Fatigue, injury, or adjustment?
I've found myself thinking that Cole wasn't throwing as hard as usual at times this year too, but that seems to only barely be true -- via Brooks Baseball, his velocity has dipped only about one mile per hour since 2013, or since the beginning of the 2015 season. To the extent that he is throwing a little softer, I guess I can't completely rule out fatigue or injury, but I think it's mostly, or entirely, that he's adjusting. See this Q+A with David Manel from July.
"[I]t's not always about going full bore every time," Cole said then. "You have to pitch, you have to be able to conserve. You have to be able to have the execution and nastiness when you're throwing at 80 percent effort. Because I fully believe that those guys that throw 200 to 235 innings, they're not out there blowing it out every single time."
JB (via email): What's the chance of the Bucs acquiring Japhet Amador, a proven Mexican League first baseman? Cyle Hankerd should be a consideration at first base, too.
This is easily the most fun question of the day.
I would absolutely endorse the Pirates (or any other team) adding Amador to their Triple-A roster. To their big-league roster, no. Amador's numbers this year with the Diablos Rojos in the Mexican League: 427 plate appearances, .346/.436/.742, 41 home runs. Yes please! But this is what scouts see when they watch Japhet Amador.
There just aren't big-leaguers who look like that. Not even Prince Fielder does. When the Astros acquired Amador in 2013, he weighed 330 pounds. I'm all for everybody having whatever body type they're happy with, but there just isn't much recent precedent for a player like Amador succeeding in the big leagues. Not even a rebuilding Astros team showed much patience with him, and he struck out 17 times and walked once when they put him in the Arizona Fall League.
As projects go, Amador would be a great one -- he's only 28, he hits moonshot home runs, and he's known as El Gigante de Mulegé, which is one of the great nicknames in pro sports. But he's not a serious candidate for big-league playing time right now, and one wonders if he'll ever be one with an NL team -- I'm guessing he'd make more sense as a DH.
Hankerd, by the way, is a former Diamondbacks prospect who has played with Amador on the Diablos Rojos and has similarly ridiculous statistics. It's worth noting here that the Mexican League is generally very favorable to batters, and that the Diablos Rojos had an .870 OPS as a team. 41-year-old Ruben Rivera had an .853 OPS for them this year. So it might be wise not to take Amador or Hankerd's numbers too seriously.