Trey Ball is undergoing a transformation.
The Indiana native was highly touted both as a pitcher and an outfielder during his high school days. Ahead of the 2013 Major League Baseball Draft, teams were divided on which position the 6-foot-6 lefty should stick to. His talent was viewed as truly unique, however, and the Boston Red Sox ultimately drafted Ball seventh overall with the intention of developing him as a pitcher.
Since then, Ball has been mired in something of a baseball nightmare. In five-plus seasons in Boston’s farm system, he has struggled to a 33-46 record with a 5.02 ERA in 134 games, including 100 starts. Unable to find consistent control (1.628 WHIP in his minor league career), Ball moved to the bullpen with Double-A Portland this season and responded by having the worst season of his career.
Believe it or not, however, Ball still might have a path to the majors.
The 24-year-old began taking batting practice a few weeks ago with the Sea Dogs, a sign that a position switch was in the works. That side work culminated with a start at designated hitter in the Sea Dogs’ game against the Binghamton Rumble Ponies.
Ball struck out in his first two at-bats — unsurprising, considering how long it had been since he had hit in a game. But then he stepped to the plate in the seventh inning with the scored tied, and delivered what proved to be the game-winning double.
For what it’s worth: Ball went 0-for-5 the next day in Portland’s season finale.
Say what you want about Ball and the Red Sox’s apparent misfire with a rare top-10 pick, but that’s a pretty cool story, no matter how you slice it.
The question, of course, is does Ball have what it takes to make it as a hitter? He obviously has a long, long way to go, but one National League scout likes what he sees.
At the end of the day, it remains highly unlikely Ball has a future with the Red Sox. He’s eligible for the Rule 5 Draft in December, meaning another team could pay $50,000 to add him to their roster. He’s also eligible for minor league free agency in Nov. 2019, and your guess is as good as ours as to whether the Red Sox would want to retain Ball’s services.
Still, Ball’s baseball career has some hope for the first time in years — even if it’s just a glimmer.
Thumbnail photo via Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports Images