March 24, 2015 at 11:00 AM
Trey Ball got off to a rough start during the 2014 season, but as the season progressed, he found his footing and started to put things together. In his first spring start this year, he showed marked improvement compared to what he looked like a year ago. Ball pitched three innings, allowing two hits, both home runs, three walks and three strikeouts, but the stat line does not tell the entire story, as he flashed two potential plus offerings.
Ball has started to fill out his 6-foot-6, 195-pound frame, and still has a repeatable, low-effort delivery. Ball sat 91-93 mph with his fastball, topping out at 94 mph. As he worked into his second and third innings, some started coming in at 89 and 90 mph, but that is to be expected in his first spring training start. His command and control are still inconsistent, however, as he gave up some hard-hit balls, some of which turned into outs, while others ended up deep over the left field fence. In the third inning, he seemed to lose his release point and could not find the strike zone for a few batters, walking three out of four guys at one point. Though his fastball command and control have a ways to go, a left-hander with his frame who can sit in the low-90s and touch the mid-90s is a very intriguing prospect.
The biggest takeaway for me, and the most intriguing thing going forward, was the development of his 83-86 mph changeup, which flashed plus-to-better in this outing. He has strong feel for the pitch, throwing it from the same arm slot as his fastball and with the same arm speed, creating great deception. The pitch showed good drop with late action, like he pulled the string on it. Again, he was inconsistent with the pitch, throwing some plus offerings but others that were below-average. At its best, it showed legitimate out pitch potential. He got three swinging strikes on it, and one strikeout on his last pitch of the outing, a well-located, 85 mph change buried in the dirt on an 0-2 count.
Ball also mixed in his curveball, throwing it 75-80 mph. The pitch is behind his changeup at this point, but he showed he could spin it and throw it for strikes. He also was able to bury the pitch down and out of the zone for a strikeout. The pitch has solid shape and showed depth through the zone and tight rotation when he snapped it off. With continued repetition, it is not a stretch to project the pitch to develop into at least an average third offering.
Although Ball did not have an ideal 2014 season, he showed the ability to pitch through adversity and make the necessary adjustments to improve. Failure is part of a prospect’s development, and in the long run his experience last year could serve him well. Ball comes from a high school in Indiana, not a hotbed of baseball talent, and he also split his time between pitching and the outfield. His development is going to take some time, but a 6-foot-6 lefty who can work in the low-90s with a potential plus secondary offering is someone any organization would take in their system. Even if he returns to Greenville to start the year, as we currently project, that is not a bad thing, but just part of the developmental process.
Photo credit: Trey Ball by Kelly O'Connor
Ian Cundall is Director of Scouting for SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @IanCundall.