The Boston Red Sox have another first-round draft pick failure in Trey Ball. Or do they? Ball will switch from throwing to hitting.
You may now add 24-year-old lefty Trey Ball to the list of Boston Red Sox first-round draft failures. This is a club that has expanded rapidly over the years and Ball now joins Jason Place (2006), Bryan Price (2008), Kolbrin Vitek (2010), Pat Light (2012) among just a few. There are far more first round picks that were busts, but a few prizes in the drafting cracker jack box also exist. Ball has decided to give up pitching and take up hitting.
Ball, the seventh pick in the 2013 draft, served his amateur apprenticeship at New Castle High School in Indiana. Ball was projected as a starter and his career was in that direction until this season when the Red Sox moved him to the bullpen in hopes of finally receiving some positives after five seasons of negatives. Simply put – it failed.
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Ball worked out of the Portland (AA) bullpen this season for 33 of his 34 games and the results gave new meaning to “less than spectacular.” Ball finished off his 65.1 innings allowing 97 hits and a 7.58 ERA. The message was clear – his career as a pitcher had disappeared, but a lifeline does exist – his bat.
Reminiscent of former first-round pick Casey Kelly is that Ball was highly regarded as a two-way player. In baseball, allowing a player to explore both the mound and a position is indeed a rare occurrence. With Kelly, the Red Sox directed him to the mound as they did so with Ball, and now Ball has determined that his option to the majors rests on his ability to prove he can swing a bat with some degree of lethal authority.
The early stages of the Ball to bat experiment did show some promise with what eventually proved to be a game-winning RBI double that came after two strikeouts. In Portland’s last game of the season, Ball went 0-for-5 in what may also be his last game with the organization.
Ball will be a Rule 5 player in December and that opens up an opportunity elsewhere since any prospect who was once a top-10 pick will get some very special extra attention. In November of 2019, Ball also becomes a minor league free agent so that avenue is certainly open. I would also not rule out foreign adventurism as an option – maybe in Korea, he’ll find his game?
What Ball does bring out is the risky business of drafting baseball talent – a far from precise skill as demonstrated by Ball being another failure. This is something to be always considered when terms such as “can’t miss” are bandied about since some do miss. And the Red Sox list is not unique as each MLB team has their own list of those who did miss despite being a first round pick.
The road ahead for Ball will be a very long one to reach the majors via hitting. The good news is occasionally a few do it and the better news is Ball appears to have the mental stuff to not close the door and pack it in. I wish him well and I wish him progress.