SoxProspects News

July 19, 2017 at 1:30 PM

Scouting Scratch: Trey Ball


PORTLAND, Me.-- Since he was drafted seventh-overall in the 2013 draft, left-hander Trey Ball has shown flashes of promise, but for the most part been wildly inconsistent. One need only look at his last two starts for evidence: the one I attended on July 7, one of the best of his career, and his follow-up effort on July 14, in which he gave up eight runs, seven earned, and failed to record an out in the second before being pulled. Here’s the Scouting Scratch from the first of those outings.

Age: 23
Height: 6-5
Weight: 215
Throws: Left
How Acquired: Draft, 1st Rd., 2013 (New Castle (Ind.) HS)

Line: 7.0 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 7 K; 83 pitches, 55 strikes (66%); 15/24 first-pitch strikes (63%); 12 swinging strikes.

Trey Ball has a tall, lanky, pitcher’s frame. He has added size since he signed and looks his listed height and weight (taken from the Portland game notes, rather than his outdated 185-pound listing on the milb.com roster). He is an above-average athlete for a pitcher. Already 23 with a well-proportioned body, Ball doesn’t have much projection remaining. 

Ball threw from a three-quarters arm slot with a short arm action and average arm speed. He started his delivery with his glove high and in front of his face. He doesn’t use a wind-up, stepping back and going into his high leg lift before coming forward to the plate. Ball has some deception in his delivery, keeping the ball hidden behind his body until late. He mostly repeated his delivery throughout the outing, and when he did lose his mechanics, he was able to correct them quickly, working back twice to get hitters out after falling behind 3-0.

During the outing, Ball used all four of his pitches: fastball, slider, curveball, and changeup. Interestingly, Ball pitched backwards after the second inning, relying on his slider as his primary pitch. 

Ball’s fastball sat 90-92 mph and he touched 94 mph once, on his final pitch of the game. He held his velocity throughout, but the pitch was straight and showed only fringe life. Ball also showed a two-seam fastball at 88-90 mph with some arm-side run. As the game went on, he featured the pitch less and less and had several innings in which he threw it significantly less often than his secondary pitches. He didn’t miss bats with the pitch but did generate a lot of weak contact. Ball’s command of the offering was below-average, and the pitch projects as an average offering at best. 

Ball’s best pitch during the outing was his 83-87 mph slider. He relied heavily on it, using it like most pitchers use a fastball. He showed confidence in the pitch and threw it in any count to both right- and left-handed hitters. He got all seven of his strikeouts with the pitch and all twelve of his swinging strikes. The pitch showed bite and short, horizontal movement. In the upper end of the velocity range, the pitch looked more cutter-like, but on the lower end it had more depth and tilt. He did a good job locating the pitch when ahead in the count and showed the ability to bury it down-and-in against right-handed hitters. The pitch flattened out when he left it up in the zone, and the first two hits he allowed were when he missed locations and left the pitch up. Ball didn’t throw a slider when he entered the organization and has made significant progress with the pitch, which now projects as an average-to-better offering.

Coming out of high school and earlier in his pro career, Ball’s changeup was seen as his best secondary offering. In this outing, however, Ball lacked feel for the pitch and really struggled to throw it for strikes. He didn’t throw it as much as he usually does, and when he did, the pitch lacked movement. He did throw one average changeup, but for the most part, the pitch was below average. 

Ball also used his curveball on occasion, mostly as a change-of-pace pitch. He throws the pitch 72-75 mph with long, vertical break. The pitch lacked tight rotation and tended to roll to the plate. He rarely used it late in counts and used it primarily early in counts to steal a strike. 

Now in his fourth full season in the organization, Ball is still on the raw side for a pitching prospect. He has an average four-pitch mix but struggles with consistency and command. Ball has shown more bat-missing ability this year than in the past, elevating his strikeout percentage from 16% last season to almost 19% this year. Command and control, especially of his fastball, are still problems, as his walk rate remains over 10% and his 1.32 home runs allowed per nine innings is a career high. 

Ball’s ceiling is a number five starter, but given how inconsistent he still is from outing to outing and the lack of development of his stuff, it is fair to question if he will ever reach his potential. Despite the hope that outings like this can inspire in his eventual development, it might be time to see if a move to the bullpen proves a better fit. To answer the question that many will ask, although Ball was also seen as a potential early-round talent as an outfielder, a move back to that role should be seen as an absolute, last-ditch effort in Ball’s case, as he would likely need significant development time given that he hasn’t either hit or played the outfield since 2013.

Photo credit: Trey Ball by Kelly O'Connor

Ian Cundall is Director of Scouting for SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @IanCundall.

 
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