When Trey Ball’s name was called as the No. 7 overall pick in the first round for the Boston Red Sox in Thursday night’s MLB first-year player draft it was a bit of a shock for everyone, including Ball. The Red Sox passed a few players they were linked to including high school outfielder Austin Meadows and Ball was never really seen as a player the Red Sox were targeting.
“Coming [into the draft], I’d heard [about being picked] mostly between eight and 14,” Ball said, a 19-year-old left-handed pitcher on a conference call with reporters. “Being picked seventh by Boston, it was great. I was speechless. It’s kind of surprising. I had no idea where it was coming from. I guess it was a last-minute decision, but I’m not sure. It’s a moment of greatness, and I’m very excited, very happy.”
But, after looking back at the whole scouting process, one which saw as many as 40 scouts at Ball’s starts, maybe it shouldn’t have been a surprise as the Red Sox were right there looking at Ball all along.
“Going over in my mind the whole process, we were thinking anywhere from eight and 14, but going over the process again and again, the Red Sox were one constant,” said Ball’s high school coach Brad King, when reached by phone Friday morning. “They were here a lot and it was multiple guys and scouts. It kind of makes sense after you sit back and reflect a little bit, they were one constant throughout the season. I think he thought he was under their radar, but obviously he was right on.”
Ball is a naturally gifted athlete and stars in center field, as well as at the plate. Growing up and even up until this year Ball didn’t focus on one position over the other, he just played the game.
“Trey set goals and one of them was to someday play major league baseball and what I tried to emphasize was do things the right way and when it comes to what you are, whether you’re a position guy or you’re a pitcher, just let someone else figure it out. Be the best athlete you can possibly be and the rest will sort itself out,” said Ball’s summer coach, Shane Stout of the Indiana Prospects.
Everything came together for Ball during his senior season at New Castle high school in New Castle, Indiana. His velocity on his fastball increased, he started to develop a curve ball and with that he took his pitching to a whole new level.
“Growing up, I always did two-way, so I was open-minded to anything. But coming on the gun this year, this spring, my pitching came out strongest this year, and that’s what took off this year for me,” said Ball, who was 6-0 with an 0.76 ERA while totaling 93 strikeouts and 13 walks in 46 innings (10 games) this spring.
For King, it didn’t take long to see his ace had a future as a pitcher.
“I think as the season played out he showed he had more polish from the mound, not that he doesn’t have the skill set to play everyday, I think he does as he has speed, power -- he has all five tools, but I think when a major league club looks at a player and how that player is going to get to the major leagues the quickest it’s a pitcher,” King said. “He came out for us since day one throwing 94 MPH in April. The first game out it was 40 degrees and he was throwing 94 and he never let down.”
Stout looks back at Ball’s starts last summer with his team at the Perfect Game Showcase, pitching against the best competition the country has to offer and saw just how dominant his lefty could be.
“He is just a bulldog out there, he isn’t an arrogant kid, but he is confident in his abilities and can dominate a game,” Stout said. “Before you know it you start a game and Trey would be on the bump and you wonder where the game went as he would have 12 or 14 punch outs. Facing the guys that we faced in the summer, those are prospects as well and Trey went right at him and wasn’t afraid.”
Ball has four pitches, his primary pitch of a fastball and then a changeup, knuckleball and a curveball, which he started throwing just over a year ago.
“He has such a great work ethic and he’s been throwing the curve for I guess a little over a year now,” King said. “He is primarily a fastball, changeup, knuckleball guy growing up. He started to develop the curveball and working at it. With the fine-tuning the Red Sox are going to give him it is going to be a good pitch for him. Like I said, with a great work ethic he is going to master the curveball.”
Although he likely will be focusing on just pitching with the Red Sox, Ball still presents tremendous talent at the plate and on the bases showcasing his power as well as doing the little things.
“As a hitter I see him keeping his hands inside the baseball and has unlimited power, but yet has the ability to hit for average and steal bases,” Stout said. “You look at him going first to third and I know there were a lot of other kids in the draft, but he may be the fastest kid going first to third in all of baseball. I don’t know how many times you see that with a kid 6-foot-6. He has unlimited power, hitting a ball 410 feet with a wood bat and I’ve also seen him go 3-for-3 with two doubles and a bunt for a hit and steal four bags in a game.”
Ball has committed to playing at the University of Texas and didn’t give anything definitive Thursday night just hours after being drafted about whether he would turn pro or not.
“Right now, it’s still open [whether he'll go to college or turn pro]. We haven’t shut the door on anything. But it’s the best fit for me and my family. Anything can happen, but I feel that Boston is right for me,” said Ball.
But, all things considered being a top-ten pick, especially as a high schooler, whose dream has always been to play major baseball as well as the assigned value of $3,246,000 for the pick it would be pretty hard to pass up the opportunity of turning pro.
“Until he signs he is going to stay true to Texas because he’s given them that commitment, that’s the kind of kid he is,” King said. “But, if you’re a top-ten pick, especially a high school kid and that’s your dream, it’s going to be awfully tough to turn the Red Sox down.”
Follow Metro Red Sox beat writer Ryan Hannable on Twitter @hannable84.