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Trevor Bell: Angels Top Prospect #11

11) Trevor Bell, 10/12/86 - RHSP, AA, AAA, Majors

7 wins, 7 losses. 140 IP, 2.70 ERA, 89 SO/35 BB. +23 runs saved

Ranking in a Nutshell: Regardless of his big league struggles, Bell had a phenomenal year in the minors due to exceptional control and an uptick in velocity - he currently touches 95 mph on the radar gun, and sits at 92.  While some of his minor league success was undoubtedly due to luck on balls in play, his ground ball and pop-up rates suggest that much of his improvement in '09 was real. With potentially plus command and a deep repertoire, he is a legitimate candidate for the back of the Angels' rotation in 2010.

Track Record:  Bell's prospect status goes all the way back to 2001, when Baseball America named him the best 14-year-old pitcher in America.  The Angels selected him out of high school in the supplemental round of the 2005 draft with their first pick, 37th overall.  His pro debut was uninspiring, and the next two years were little better: he didn't pitch poorly exactly, but was overshadowed by fellow 2005 draftees Sean O'Sullivan and Jeremy Haynes, and 2006 draftee David Herndon.  2008 was the nadir, seeing Bell bounce between A-ball and High-A and ultimately lose his starting role.  Off the field, however, Bell showed real character when the floods hit Cedar Rapids, initiating his own fundraising efforts before the rest of Angels organization (publicly) did anything.  The additional karma might have pushed him over the edge, because he finally broke out in AA last year. He kept on rolling after his promotion to AAA by inducing solid 50% and 16% ground ball and pop-up rates respectively, though his K rate dropped from 6.7 K/9 to 4.8 K/9 against the better competition.  The efficiency allowed him to throw two complete game shutouts for the Bees, though at other times all of that contact caught up with him - in his final two full starts for Salt Lake, he yielded 9 hits and 13 hits respectively.

In the majors... well, we all saw what happened in the majors.  His slider was inconsistent and therefore got mashed, his change-up fooled no one, and he didn't command his fastball/cutter well enough to help his other pitches play up.

Win-the-Lottery-Ceiling: This is a reach, but bear with me: Bartolo Colon, circa 2005.  Like Colon, Bell's on the shorter end of the pitching spectrum, but has the clean, repeatable mechanics to rack up a ton of innings. Like Colon, he can cut and move his fastball effectively.  At this point their velocities are similar (Bell in ‘09 to Colon in '05).  Colon generates more arm side run on his fastball than we've seen thus far in Bell's career, but maybe it will come for the 22-year old. Lastly, pitch f/x shows that the velocity and break of their offspeed stuff is similar, suggesting that with better command Bell could use those pitches more effectively. That's the win-the-lottery scenario; odds are, Bell winds up a middle reliever and swingman. 

Scouting Report: (beneath the jump)

Bell's mechanics are compact, repeatable, and conducive to good command. He goes at hitters from a three quarters arm slot with a fastball that he either runs to his arm side or cuts to his glove side. When he's on, he locates the pitch to both sides of the plate beautifully - many of major league K's came from fastballs on the corners. He did lose velocity around the 80-pitch mark in his second, and longest start, so getting stronger will be important. His slider featured mid-80's velocity, but its break and drop varied wildly: sometimes there wasn't even enough movement to distinguish the pitch from the cut fastball, and at other times it showed decent bite. According to pitch f/x data, the slider averaged two inches less horizontal break than Santana's slider, and 3 inches less than Lackey's.  However, when he shaved off a few mph from two breaking balls against Texas on October 1st, the resulting tilt compared favorably to his rotation mate's better breaking balls.  Learning to add and subtract something from the slider while maintaining both command and tight spin might be Bell's best shot at developing a true "out pitch."  His change-up showed enough fade to limit minor league lefties to a .232 BAA, but major leaguers absolutely pasted the pitch when he left it up in the zone. At just 6-7 mph separation from his fastball, it doesn't have a lot of swing-and-miss potential, but if he keeps it down he can generate a lot of weak contact.

While Bell took his lumps in the majors, you never saw him lose his composure on the mound. His October 1st mop-up outing against Texas speaks to his plus make-up: over the course of one and a third innings, Bell took a shattered bat to the arm, saw his defense blow two costly plays, and yielded a couple of bad-luck hits on well-executed pitches. All in all, it was as bad a day as they come, but he never flinched (ok, he flinched a little when the bat fragment flattened him). Nevertheless, Scioscia sent him out for another full inning, and Bell threw strikes, trusted all of his pitches, and escaped unscathed despite his infield booting yet another ground ball behind him. There are few 22 year-olds with the moxy to pull that off.