In the 2013 MLB draft, completed this past weekend, the Red Sox selected the earliest they have since 1993 thanks to their awful 2012 campaign. Their prize for their struggles was Trey Ball, the consensus top left-handed pitcher in the entire draft class. He's a 6-foot-6, 180 pound 18-year-old from Indiana that can already bring it with low-to-mid-90s velocity, and has a change-up more refined than the baseball world is used to from someone his age.
That's all good and impressive, but it lacks context. That's why we asked various prospect analysts and draft experts just where it is that Trey Ball would rank in the Red Sox system, alongside the talent that was already on the farm prior to last week's draft, as well as if they had any real concerns or positives to share. This all assumes, of course, that Ball signs with Boston and makes everything official.
It's very abstract: Ball would probably slot in the top-five out of the gate, which is saying something when the guys in front of you are Xander Bogarts, Garin Cecchini, Henry Owens, Matt Barnes, and possibly Blake Swihart. It's a thick top tier.
I like his size and athleticism, also that he has some feel for pitching despite having those long, difficult to control levers. When it comes to tall, lanky arms, the athleticism is key. Guys with coordination and overall athleticism can make adjustments and stay consistent with their movements. The majority of tall pitchers are quick to get out of whack because of the difficulty controlling the body, so the better the athlete, the better the chance of pulling it off.
Ball isn't a finished product, so there is more risk involved than the average high-ceiling arm. The fastball has more to project, which is a good thing, but it also suggests the current product is a bit underdeveloped and not a wow offering. The secondary stuff can be viewed in a similar manner, although his initial journey in pro ball will probably feature a heavy dose of four-seam fastball action and not much on the secondary front. He has the raw stuff to work with a very promising physical design, but it's going to take some time.
I loved the pick because of the athleticism and the upside, and I think he sticks on the mound. It will be tempting to try his leverage at the plate, but the focus on being a pitcher and only a pitcher will allow him to take big steps forward on the mound. I think he could have #2 starter upside if the package comes together, with a big fastball released with great extension and heavy downward movement to go along with a quality assortment of secondary offerings, most likely headlined by a plus change-up.
I would say Trey Ball probably ranks in the middle of Boston's top 10. And no, there's nothing I don't like about him: Good stuff, clean delivery, athletic, great kid.
I'd probably rank Ball as the best pitching prospect in the system, just ahead of Matt Barnes. But it's close. There are three things that concern me about Ball.
1. Not a great feel for pitching yet.
2. Arm action isn't the cleanest.
3. I still think he's a better hitting prospect.
Based on my personal rankings entering the year -- Xander Bogaert
Owens would be ranked higher -- right in that same 5-7 range with Ball -- if I were to re-do the rankings right now. I do believe Ball has more projection and ultimately a higher raw ceiling than Owens, but both are very similar as potential high threes or even possibly number two starters.
Scouting Report: Projectable lefty with great athleticism. Thin frame with lots of room to fill out. Fastball sits in the low 90s and tops out around 95 mph. Potential to add velocity as he physically matures. Changeup has plus potential. Maintains arm speed well and flashes arm-side fade. Also throws a 74-78 mph curveball that showed significant improvement during his senior season. Didn't start throwing curveball with regularity until junior year. Smooth, low-effort pitching mechanics. Repeats delivery well for a high school pitcher. Not a lot of miles on his arm. Also a talented hitter and outfielder, was one of the top two-way players in the country.
Last, Baseball America's post-pick report on Ball is similarly impressive and features a similar ranking to the above:
The Red Sox have a good farm system, but Ball would fit somewhere in the top 5, and you could go either way about whether he's better than another lanky southpaw, Henry Owens.
So, we've got reports that have him as similar to Henry Owens (the dominating 2013 iteration), within that mid-range of Boston's top-10, and even one report that says he might be the best pitching prospect in the entire system -- one that includes not only Owens, but also the aforementioned Barnes and right-hander Allen Webster. It's mostly a tight range that gives us a pretty good indication of his ability, and given the names surrounding him that we're already excited for, that's a huge positive for the start of Boston's 2013 draft.
Read more Red Sox:
- MLB Draft 2013: Red Sox draft highlights, rounds 11-40
- Will Middlebrooks won’t lose 3B job to Jose Iglesias
- MLB Draft 2013 results: Red Sox select pitcher Trey Ball #7 overall
- MLB Draft 2013: The best #7 picks in history
- Xander Bogaerts might be baseball’s best prospect