MANCHESTER, N.H. — After sharing an outfield with Jacoby Ellsbury for two years, Red Sox farmhand Jeff Corsaletti has a feel for what makes a talented outfielder.
"Bubba (Bell) is a great guy and a very hard worker," said Corsaletti. "He just always produces. Everyone in this outfield could be headed to the big leagues."
Those attending the Double-A Eastern League All-Star Game yesterday may have been treated to a preview of the American League East's next crop of star outfielders in the Yankees' top prospect Austin Jackson, the Blue Jays' No. 1 prospect Travis Snider and Red Sox minor leaguers Corsaletti and Bell.
Of the budding stars, Bell is the most surprising. He attracted attention for little more than his unique first name when he was selected in the 39th round out of Nicholls (La.) State in 2005.
"It was a lot of motivation for me," he said. "I had to work really hard. Especially now in the upper levels. A lot of people have been ahead of me."
But Bell has let his play do the talking. He exploded onto the scene with the Lowell Spinners in 2006, hitting .492 (39 for 91) with nine doubles and 13 RBIs. That earned him a promotion to high Single-A Greenville.
"Any time you can get off to a good start and establish yourself, you'll be on peoples' minds," he said. "I turned a few heads, and it also gave me a boost in confidence."
He continued his breakout last season when he hit an eye-popping .370 with 22 home runs for Single-A Lancaster.
Now the center fielder for the Portland Sea Dogs, the 25-year-old is hitting .286 with 13 home runs and 49 RBIs.
His teammate in Portland, Corsaletti, came to the Red Sox organization with considerably more hype. As a senior at the University of Florida, he hit .358 with 10 home runs to lead the Gators to the College World Series title game.
He was taken by the Red Sox in the sixth round of the 2005 draft and kicked off his career with a .357 average with 17 doubles for high Single-A Greenville.
But in 2006 he fell to just .264 at Wilmington, and last year in his first year with Portland, he finished at just .266.
"My first year at Double-A was a real learning process," he said. "That jump from Single-A to Double-A is always hard. It is a much tougher and faster game. But I am finally having some good success."
This season has been a banner one for the 25-year-old. He entered the All-Star break hitting .311 with 12 home runs and 50 RBIs. Those numbers have earned him a call-up to Triple-A. He was to leave for Pawtucket after last night's game.
"I found out after the game on Monday," he said. "Now I know I could be just one phone call away (from the majors). It's a lot of motivation to play well."
The Blue Jays
A call up to Toronto may not be far off for the Fisher Cats' Travis Snider.
At just 20-years-old, Snider is rated the No. 11 prospect overall and No. 4 outfielder in minor league baseball by Baseball America.
Toronto drafted Snider with the No. 14 pick overall in the 2006 draft. He was assigned to the Pulaski Blue Jays rookie ball team, where he hit .325 in 54 games.
Last season at Single-A Lansing he hit .313 with 16 home runs and 93 RBIs. He opened this season with High-A Dunedin before his call-up to the Fisher Cats, where he has hit .267 with 14 home runs and 57 RBIs.
"It's an honor to be a top prospect," said Snider, who won the home run derby last night. "It doesn't change the way you prepare every day. I'm happy to be where I am and play baseball for a living."
The future Yankee
With legends like Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle having patrolled center field for the New York Yankees, Austin Jackson finds himself awed by the group he may find himself in.
"It's exciting to be put in that category," he said. "I want to be ready when I get out there. But hopefully I'll be up there someday."
The Yankees selected Jackson in the eighth round in 2005 of Ryan (Texas) High. He broke out right away by batting .304 in 40 games for the Gulf Coast Yankees.
He saw his numbers dip to .260 with Single-A Charleston in 2006, but rebounded to hit .304 with 32 doubles between Charleston and high Single-A Tampa last season.
Jackson entered this season not only as the Yankees' No. 1 prospect, but also the No. 41 prospect and No. 14 outfielder in all of baseball by Baseball America. He has backed it up with a .282 average and 23 doubles for Double-A Trenton.
"I am working on feeling comfortable at the plate," he said. "You have to get the at-bats and trust the (Major Leaguers) ahead of you are telling you the right things."