2011 MLB Draft Q&A: Josh Bell

With the 2011 MLB Draft merely weeks away, high school outfielder Josh Bell is continuing to open eyes as one of the top high school position prospects in this year's deep draft class. OaklandClubhouse's MLB draft expert John Anderson recently caught-up with the switch-hitting Bell, who just finished his 2011 season for Jesuit College Prep in Dallas with a .584 BA with 13 HR, 50 RBI and 16 SB.

John Anderson: Hey Josh, how are things going?

Josh Bell: Things are good. How are you?

JAA: So with school over have things quieted down a bit?

JB: Yes. I took my last final and I am out of high school forever. It is definitely exciting now.

JAA: So at what stage are you in the playoffs?

JB: We are in the quarterfinals of the Texas state playoffs. We play McKinney Boyd next in a three-game series starting this Thursday.

JAA: How are you feeling about the playoffs?

JB: We are feeling good. We are playing the best baseball we've played all year so we are confident. We need to go out and get wins.

JAA: You must be thrilled with your season.

JB: Yeah. I guess when the season started I just kept my head down and grinded really hard and worked hard. Now we're in the playoffs and I'm playing really well and the rest of my team has been playing well as well. We can't complain. We have over 30 wins and we are one of two teams that have over 30 wins in Texas. So we have been playing exceptionally well this year. All of the team has.

JAA: Talk about that a bit because last year ended early with the knee injury and speak to that and your rehab. I know you worked hard with your father, Earnest, who played college football at Southern. Any anxiety about the knee coming into this season?

JB: My injury was May 12 of last year and I remember it like it was yesterday. I rehabbed pretty much from the beginning of June until…well I am still going to speed training as we speak. But rehab was a couple months into the summer and I was cleared from that and started speed training, working out at school again. School started back up so that helped a lot. This season I haven't been worrying about it. I probably had a little fear of getting hurt again but I got over that pretty quickly.

JAA: So the injury caused you to lose the summer and the all-star circuit but after rehabbing you were ready for the World Wood Bat Association Showcase 18 and Under World Championships in October in Jupiter, Florida, where you played great (7-11, with 2 doubles, 1 HR and 11 RBI against some of the nation's top pitching prospects).

JB: Yes. I guess it did helping working out last summer. I was swinging hard in Jupiter, which helped a lot. I came out prepared and I practiced hard weeks prior to Jupiter.

JAA: I know you played basketball. Did you stop because of the injury or did you stop before?

JB: I was a basketball kid growing up. I loved basketball to death. I wanted to be like Michael Jordan when I was growing up but I stopped growing. I peaked out at 6'3'' so I wasn't going to be the next MJ. When I committed to LSU I decided to toss out up my basketball shoes and concentrate on my cleats and try to be the best baseball player that I could be.

JAA: So you originally committed to LSU?

JB: Yes. I committed to LSU the fall of my junior year and things fell through.

JAA: How did things fall through there? I'm guessing they would love to have you?

JB: It's kind of a long story but it all worked out in the end and I'm really glad that I ended up signing with the University of Texas. It actually worked out perfectly.

JAA: Let's get back to basketball for a minute. I'm going to assume you are a Dallas Mavs fan…you must be enjoying the playoffs?

JB: I am, especially the last few years. Dallas is a big city for sports and we have been supporting the Mavs and the Cowboys and the Rangers.

JAA: So after October in Jupiter I know the scouts turned more of their attention to you, how did you prepare for the season knowing the scouts would be watching your every move?

JB: After Jupiter I went back to working out. I didn't know Jupiter would be that big a deal but I do know my ranking shot through the ceiling after that one week. The first scrimmage of the spring season there were tons of scouts there so I knew that I would have to perform in the season and that people would be watching my every move. So I just kept up with the speed training and kept working out.

I went to a couple hitting lessons here and there but then just hit with my dad and finding out what I needed to work on my own. Some scouts are more in touch with others. This year some guys have told me be careful sliding head first after what happened to Josh Hamilton. Most of what the scouts tell me is things that will help me have a long career. Nothing like spread your stance out or does this so you won't get beat inside. I've never heard stuff like that. It's definitely a different experience having scouts at every game and marking down every move and then making phone calls after every at bat.

JAA: Well it's a credit to you that you are performing under the scrutiny. A scout told me he loves how you are performing in this spotlight. When did you start switch-hitting and who suggested it?

JB: My dad suggested it. I started when I was five years old so I've grown up as a switch-hitter. It was unheard of back in the day. It is still kind of unheard of around Dallas right now. There are just a handful of legitimate switch hitters across the country. So I kind of struck gold.

JAA: In all your travels and with different All-Star teams you probably haven't encountered too many switch hitters.

JB: Well there have been some but they are not the same type of switch-hitter as me. Some are more interested in their batting average and I'm out there trying to hit for power from both sides.

JAA: And that is what the scouts love. This draft is loaded with upper echelon power arms but you bring a unique skill-set to the game with legitimate power from both sides of the plate and teams are always looking for power so it serves you well. What has this pre-draft process been like for you and your family?

JB: It's been exciting and we've been enjoying the experience a lot. At first, having all the scouts at my games was a bit overwhelming for me and my teammates because no one had ever seen that before but then we all got acclimated to it as an aspect of our games. We are going to have scouts at our games and we are going to run over this team.

It's been fun and we are going to try to do the best we can in this playoff run and then I'll be done with high school ball forever.

JAA: Scouts have spoken about you being a leader for your team on and off the field. Does this come naturally to you?

JB: Yes. I had to step in to the shoes as senior captain this year. When I first came to Jesuit, I looked up to the senior captains and same thing sophomore year when I was the young kid on varsity. Looking up to everyone. This year it is obviously new so I've been trying to lead by example. I try to lead in stretches and in pregame so no one slacks off. I want to set a strong example and to show the younger guys what to do.

JAA: What type of contact do you have with the other high school players who are expected to go high in the draft?

JB: I've played against Dylan Bundy a couple times and I text Blake Swihart here and there because we are both Texas commits. We are supposed to go to the Big 12 tournament and meet up and talk about our futures and everything.

JAA: The Texas baseball office will be sitting there in the middle of August sweating it out to see if you and Swihart sign or enroll at Austin.

JB: It really all comes down to what happens in June. It will be a couple crazy months of the summer. I'm really excited about Texas and I'm going to take a couple classes this summer to get a couple classes out of the way so that if I do end up heading to Austin I can work out more than some of the other freshman.

JAA: Are you going to take classes at Austin?

JB: I haven't really decided. My mom teaches at University of Texas-Arlington so I'll take one summer class there. So depending on what happens in the first month I may just go down there and see what the college experience is like and see what everything is like in Austin and make my decision.

JAA: Austin is a great place.

JB: I agree. Austin is my favorite city by far.

JAA: Your mentioned your mom teaches at UT-A. Have you met Oakland A's 2010 first round pick Michael Choice?

JB: No I haven't. My mom taught Hunter Pence back when he was at UT-A but I haven't met either one of them.

JAA: Is there a player in the big leagues you like to follow or pattern any part of your game after?

JB: I hate to say this because I'm a Rangers fan but I love watching Robinson Cano. His swing amazes me. And his approach at the plate is second to none right now. He and Josh Hamilton are my two favorite players.

JAA: Talk about your approach. Are you fully comfortable from both sides of the plate? Are you a "see it and rip it" type of player?

JB: My summer coach kind of instilled in me to "see ball/hit ball". I do let the ball get deep so I'm not doing anything stupid like rolling it over. I know I'm only going to get a couple good pitches per at bat so I'm trying to take advantage of those pitches. I do feel comfortable from both sides and hit well from both sides of the plate.

JAA: Defensively you are playing center. What are the scouts telling you about where they think you will play?

JB: I've heard so many different things. Like my arm is not strong enough for right field and then that it is strong enough for right field and I will definitely play there. I like center for right now. It's definitely a jumps thing. I may not be as fast as Granderson but I can cover ground very well. Whatever happens happens. If Coach Augie (Garrido, head coach at Texas) wants me to play right field and play as a freshman then I'm all for it.

JAA: Are there any guys you know who are now in the minors that you are in contact with?

JB: I don't know if you know him but Michael Hollimon. He was drafted by Detroit and hit a home run in the bigs, which is really cool. He battled some injuries. He signed with UT and went there a couple years and won the College World Series. He's with the Twins now and I talk to him and text him so that's cool and he's a switch hitter as well.

JAA: With a 3.8 grade point average and a commit to Texas, college is a viable option and education is obviously something you take seriously, but if you do sign with a big league team, have you and your family taken the time to think about you being in Florida or Arizona for a few months?

JB: As a family we haven't really planned on anything for the minors because we can't determine where I will play. We kind of just are planning for UT and we are excited for that. It will be an interesting summer. UT is just three hours down the road and my mom is obsessed with that because I went from being eight hours from home when I signed with LSU to three hours away.

JAA: Are you hearing from any one team more than other teams?

JB: Not really. I think all the teams have talked to me pretty much the same amount. It's hard to know if one team likes me more than another team. I'll probably know in a couple weeks if one team or a few teams really like me.

JAA: Well we know a lot of teams like you and it will be interesting to see how this plays out. Good luck to you in the playoffs and in the draft.

JB: Thanks so much.

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