BOSTON — Who needs Cliff Lee when you can add an 18-year-old version of the lefty?
OK, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. But Trey Ball, who the Red Sox drafted seventh overall Thursday, said after being picked that he models his game after the talented Phillies hurler.
“I look up to Cliff Lee — the way he’s always constantly in the zone with all of his pitches and that’s what I try to strive for,” Ball said.
It’s always fun to see who young players try to emulate or who scouts compare younger players to. The Lee name-drop is kind of funny, though, seeing as how it was just over a week ago that Lee dominated the Red Sox for eight innings, and many have tossed around the idea of the Sox going after Lee should he become available before this season’s trade deadline.
But that’s neither here nor there. Instead, let’s focus on Ball, a left-handed pitcher/outfielder who the Red Sox selected with their highest draft pick in 20 years.
“We viewed Trey as one of the most complete players available in this year’s draft,” Red Sox director of amateur scouting Amiel Sawdaye said, according to a press release. “His size, athleticism, competitiveness, and makeup made him attractive to the Red Sox as we watched his outstanding performance as both a pitcher and an outfielder. We were thrilled that such a talented player was available to us, and believe that Trey will excel professionally as a left-handed pitcher.”
Ball, whose exceptional play earned him a scholarship to the University of Texas, has a decision to make. If he ends up joining the Red Sox organization, though, he’ll bring a big-time arm and plenty of upside. He was the No. 1 draft eligible left-handed pitcher, according to Baseball America, and, at 6-foot-5, he could become a very intimidating figure on the mound if he fills out and continues to develop his secondary pitches.
“Right now, I feel like my fastball’s my go-to pitch,” Ball said on a conference call Thursday. “I’d say I need more work with my changeup and my curveball. I’ve only been throwing a curveball for about a year and a half now. My father had restricted me on throwing a curveball to preserve my arm so I didn’t have to risk that injury, so I see myself working on my curveball a lot and improving that.”
Ball was recently named the Gatorade Indiana Baseball Player of the Year after going 6-0 with a 0.76 ERA, 93 strikeouts and just 13 walks in his senior season at New Castle High School in Indiana. He also excelled at the plate as an outfielder, although Ball said pitching became his top priority this year.
Ball has a ton of potential. His selection surprised some people, though. In fact, even Ball was surprised — albeit pleasantly.
“We had a lot of contact with them in the spring,” said Ball, who spent draft night with 30 or so family members. “They sent in multiple guys to come visit and have meetings with me. They sent in the site guys, so I’ve had a lot of contact with them. I think coming in I’d heard mostly between eight and 14 and being picked seventh by Boston it’s great. I’m kind of speechless. It’s kind of surprising. I had no idea where it was coming from. I guess it was a last-minute decision, I’m not for sure. But it’s a moment of greatness and I’m very excited, very happy.”
The Red Sox had an opportunity to be aggressive in this year’s draft. They certainly swung for the fences, so now we’ll see where the ball — yeah, pun intended — ends up landing.