The Red Sox should consider moving Trey Ball to the outfield.
Trey Ball continues to struggle as a pitcher in the Red Sox farm system and it might be time for a new role.
The lanky and projectable, left-hander took another one on the chin for the Portland Sea Dogs on Wednesday Night. The loss dropped Ball’s record to 1-5 on the season with a 5.77 ERA at the AA level. His last 20 2/3 innings have been disastrous having surrendered 20 earned runs for a whopping 8.71 ERA in that span.
The struggles are nothing new for the once highly touted southpaw. The 22-year-old is now 24-36 with a career 4.61 ERA over 402 innings of work across 5 seasons in the Sox system.
Pitchers who consistently shellacked at the AA level often reach the end of the line as far as the starting rotation goes. Would a move to the pen unlock more of Ball’s potential?
His peripherals suggest he has made progress. His 7.63 K/9 and 3.54 BB/9 both represent career bests for the lefty but neither number jumps off the page at the AA level. The walks alone would give me pause that the pen would be less than a prudent decision.
Luckily for the Red Sox and Trey Ball, there may be a fall back plan for the Indiana native.
In addition to drawing raves for his pitching prowess back in 2013, Ball also drew decent marks as a power hitting right field prospect.
Here is a glimpse at his scouting report as a hitter.
Bat speed and frame lead to above-average power potential; will show raw power in BP but has yet to fully translate it during games; experience against quality pitching and added muscle will lead to realization of power; doesn’t use big load, so bat speed will have to be the source of pop in his bat; should hit around 20 home runs per season at peak
It should be noted that the 6’6 southpaw chose to hit with a wooden bat instead of the aluminum bats most High-School players use.
Balls scouting grades as a hitter/outfielder on the 20/80 scale read as follows.
Hitting 35/55 (floor/ceiling)
Plate Discipline 30/50
Trey Ball was projected as a plus defensive outfielder with speed and 20 HR power yet for some reason, the Red Sox thought his upside was higher on the hill.
Christopher Crawford of Baseball Prospectus told Over the Monster that he saw it the other way.
“I thought Ball was a hitter from the moment I saw tape of him hitting, and unfortunately, nothing has happened since 2013 to convince me otherwise. “I wish I could be surprised that the pitching hasn’t worked out, but I’m not. We’ve seen lots of left-handed projects go high, but Ball was almost entirely projection; the overall stuff was lacking, and that’s being nice. Has he made some progress since he was a prep? Sure, but there was just such a long way to go.”
We’ve seen players in the past convert from the slab to position player and vice versa. Trevor Hoffman, Tim Wakefield, and Anthony Gose have gone from position player to pitcher while Rick Ankiel notably made the move from the mound to CF for the St. Louis Cardinals.
The Red Sox should consider this move for Ball while he is still young enough to make the transition. Ball hasn’t faced pitching in 4 plus seasons but the depth and talent of the Red Sox outfield at the Major League level should afford him plenty of time to shake off the cobwebs and give it a try.
Boston can either bang their heads on the wall hoping something finally clicks for Trey Ball. Or, the Red Sox can take a proactive approach and see if they can find a diamond in the rough.