Praying for the DH: Breaking Down Braves’ Bryce Ball

Word has spread that the National League could adopt the DH as early as 2021, and I’m finally ready. No more Mike Foltynewicz, and say hello to Bryce Ball. It seems universal throughout conversations from Atlanta Braves prospect gurus that the Braves committed highway robbery when they drafted Ball in the 24th round. Granted, Ball is a remarkably limited baseball player and that’s why national media hasn’t been in on him quite yet. At 6’6, 235 (and most people that have seen him in person think that it’s more like 6’7 250), there’s likely only 1 spot of which he’ll be able to play on the diamond. Unfortunately for him, that’s the spot which houses what most would consider the Braves franchise player, Freddie Freeman

Breaking down Bryce Ball’s Stat-line

There are 2 players in the Braves system that has 70 grade raw power and that is Alex Jackson and Bryce Ball. For comparison’s sake, Ronald Acuna Jr’s raw power is 65. As of now, Ball’s game power is well below that according to Fangraphs, but a repeat of 2019 at a higher level, and no one will be able to argue that 2019 was a fluke because of age vs. level.

Between Danville and Rome, the 21 year old put up some eye popping numbers:

  • 263 Plate Appearances
  • 76 Hits
  • 18 Doubles
  • 17 Home Runs
  • 50! Walks
  • .329/.385/.628/1.023 slash line

And while it may change going forward against tougher competition, Ball’s K-rate is quite bearable for a power hitter of his magnitude, hovering around 20%.

Breaking Down Bryce Ball’s Contact-Type

Looking at his spray chart, one could see that he, like Freddie Freeman, uses all parts of the field. However, after talking to David Lee, it was apparent that Ball’s opposite field (~30%) connections were more to do with not clearing his wrists and it’s something that he’s going to have to work on as he progresses through the system.  Generally speaking, power hitters like Acuna, who can hit for power from pole to pole, are few and far between and it’s best for guys like Ball to be middle/pull types to maximize their in-game power.

Speaking of David Lee, I asked him what he’d like to see from Bryce Ball going forward:

Regarding Ball, it’s all about how he handles advanced pitching. He tracks well, knows the zone and adjusts, but getting to velo off advanced sequencing will be the big test. I’m confident he can handle it. He also needs to make significant strides at 1B.

David Lee (find his stuff at BravesProspects.com)

Video of Bryce Ball Discussing Being Drafted by the Braves

Now…for fun, let’s see Bryce Ball hitting things.

Thanks for reading our piece on Braves Bryce Ball. If you enjoyed this piece, check out our Atlanta Braves Prospect Lists that can be found here.

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Author: Ryan Cothran

Ryan is the site editor and manager of Braves Journal. Follow him on Twitter.

74 thoughts on “Praying for the DH: Breaking Down Braves’ Bryce Ball”

  1. I like the fact he isn’t “dead pull” and still hits the ball with authority. I think this allows him to have far less holes in his swing and makes him tougher to pitch to.

  2. I like to think that I’m progressive when it comes to baseball traditions. I don’t have any trouble with fielders using gloves, or having paid umpires calling the plays. I’m fine with just four balls being a walk, and I think the curveball has been a really great innovation.

    But the designated hitter sucks.

  3. The DH does suck. It’s coming, as surely as wild card teams and interleague play. Alas and woe, all that.

    I hope Bryce Ball as Braves DH becomes the greatest thing since trashcans and buzzers.

    Ryan, how old is David Lee? It seems he’s been around forever.

    Thanks.

  4. @ 3, AAR,

    So, baseball of the roaring (19)20’s represents progressive baseball to you (as to rules, not accusing on the color line or something like that)?

    I do not like the DH. However, it is a great disadvantage to NL teams to work in the non DH league. Like the McCann contract with the Yankees, an AL team can add an extra year or 2 knowing if the fielding goes a good hitter is still potentially useful to the AL team.

  5. Yeah, the color line was an innovation, too — the darkest moment in the history of the sport. Anson and all of his bullying cronies forcing it on colleagues who proved, in the end, far too willing to go along with it, for a shameful half century. Before they actually banned all black players from the sport, of course, there was plenty of racism, but the color line was a genuine innovation and the worst we ever had.

    Honestly, I’m even open to robot umps. I have no problem with the invention of a new position, from shortstop to the widespread use of the Ted Williams shift against hitters of all handedness. I just really believe, aesthetically, that hitters should field their position.

  6. The problem that I have with robot umps is it takes away from another skill set that is being taught from the ground up. The DH, however, is the exact opposite. As soon as pitchers get drafted, they stop taking swings and then are asked to pick it back up again when they get to the highest level, which is totally absurd.

  7. I get that I’m raging against the dying of the light, here. But my objection is to the entire fact of pitchers not hitting.

    I also don’t like metal bats, while we’re at it!

  8. @5 If the DH was already in play or confirmed for say, 2021, how much of an impact might that have had on our JD contract offers? Would be interesting to know…

  9. Basketball and football are radically different sports than they were in say, 1920. Baseball and hockey are recognizably the same game, albeit played at a much higher skill level and with tweaked rules. The allure of the DH (though not to me or AAR) is that the game looks the same when its implemented: it’s insidious that way. The objection to the DH is principled, and principles almost always get short shrift.

  10. I’m pro-DH at this point. I agree; it’s absurd to ask pitchers to hit when they’re not hitting at all in the minors. And as a fan of good baseball, I hate watching the Folty’s of the world try to hit.

  11. Take a guy like Nelson Cruz for example. No NL team would ever be able to employ him as he’s a butcher in the field. However, an AL team can carry his bat and just from the offensive side, he was a 4.3 WAR player last year and is only signed for 12MM in 2020.

    Meanwhile, in innerleague play, the Braves DH will be someone like Adam Duvall, Nick Markakis, or Charlie Culberson.

  12. Should everybody pitch too?

    Honestly, we don’t employ that logic in any other sport. Everybody doesn’t have to do everything. The goalie doesn’t take shots. The kickers don’t throw touchdown passes, and the wide receivers don’t play free safety. Why in baseball does everybody have to do everything?

  13. To be fair, we actually agree at some point in this equation because:

    No DH > DH everywhere > Only one league has the DH

  14. Pitchers — and Mini-Me Dansby — should pitch: everyone should hit. The DH was not common before the AL adopted it for the 1973 season as I believe that only the Pacific League in Japan used the DH prior to that time (several minor leagues held a “trial DH rule” from 1969-72, but were scheduled to go back to normal starting in 1973). If the AL were to do away with the position, then amateurs, colleges and the lower minors would drop it as well and pitchers would get a lot more practice, which would be a good thing.

  15. Actually, goalies can score a goal on a goal kick. And, obviously, teams often pull the goalie to add another guy on offense when they need to come from behind. I think that’s actually an example of what I want — every defensive player is also an offensive player.

  16. The point is that they’re not all doing the same thing at the same time at the same rate. Every sport has specialists. I think the Nelson Cruz example is an excellent one to show the inequity in the leagues. Like I said, I’d slightly prefer there not be the DH, but the NL can’t be the only league to not have it.

  17. To me, Nelson Cruz is sort of the exception that proves the rule. On a lot of teams, the DH is a stiff you overpaid a few years ago who really isn’t good enough to play any more. Watching Albert Pujols trot up every day somewhere between a tragedy and a travesty. (I know that Ohtani is their real DH, but Pujols epitomizes designated hitters just as much as Cruz.) Most designated hitters aren’t David Ortiz — a lot of them are Hanley Ramirez and Miguel Cabrera, broken-down husks who frankly can’t play baseball any more.

  18. I’m bias, but I’m pro-DH for one reason. I’m a terrible fielder. I spent countless hours working on fielding, that I probably should have spent on hitting or pitching, both of which I like to say I’m quite good at. I am a serviceable outfielder or second baseman, but I have never been great at any position because coaches bounced me around the field trying to find somewhere I was good. Perhaps, if I could have just pitched and hit I’d be much better at both those facets of the game while being a similar grade fielder.

    I also want the strategic element to remain, as seen in my DH proposal a few weeks ago.

  19. I don’t know if you can really say there’s an exception or a rule. If anything, you could say that the rule is “this is a position you can give anyone a day off with and still keep their bat in the lineup”. The broken down stiff, the professional hitter, and the roving spots for several tired players are all common uses of the DH.

  20. There’s a pick your poison aspect of this discussion that’s obvious, but I’ll say it: The AL and the MLBPA isn’t doing away with the DH and if the NL doesn’t adapt, it’ll be at a disadvantage in interleague play and playoffs. Since the adoption of the DH, the AL has won 25 of 47 World Series. Not a significant difference, but it is a difference (could be pure crapshootiness).

  21. @19
    The other elephant in the room is the ability to give players rest while keeping their bats in the lineup. While most AL teams have a DH type, there are many that utilize the DH to keep their players fresh and rested.

  22. Dangit Rob, I was going to say something IN INTERNET SHOUTY ALL-CAPS and now you have ruined that as well. :)

  23. With the DH, the Braves will have to spend even more money on a hitter, which they won’t do.

    These pitchers who can’t hit should spend more time on it and have some pride in it. They sit around for four days a week. No reason guys like Folty can’t get in the cage some.

  24. How about a rest that turns out to be unwelcome? 162 games this season? Don’t bet the farm.

    Anyone having similar thoughts?

  25. I agree with Rob. It’s a detriment to NL teams. And watching the Foltys of the world hit is not pleasurable to anyone.

  26. SORRY SNOWSHINE I HATE IT WHEN I HAVE THE MONOPOLY ON SHOUTY CAPS AND NO PUNCTUATION EVER I DONT EVEN CARE WHEN ITS A RUN ON SENTENCE

  27. Rant worthy of Facebook (from me):

    I get the complaints on the DH, but let’s break it down:

    1. Starting at 13 years old, there’s a DH in travel ball.
    2. In high schools all over, there are DHs.

    3. In every college baseball progam, there are DHs.

    4. In every stop at the MiLB level, there are DHs.

    5. Then…after not hitting for years, a pitcher in the NL is asked to do it again at the most elite level in existence without real training before or during the season. Most fail miserably.

    Whether we like it or not, this isnt logic.

    Adding to that, the DH isn’t going away in any of those levels or in the AL, so why would the NL keep it?

    Theres literally no reason except for: That’s just the way it is.

  28. To be clear: I know it’s gonna happen.

    I get that it’s gonna happen.

    But I ain’t got to like it.

  29. NL tOPS+ (batting as P)

    1973 – 10
    1978 – 8
    1983 – 4
    1988 – (-1)
    1993 – 2
    1998 – 2
    2003 – (-2)
    2008 – (-3)
    2013 – (-3)
    2018 – (-17)

  30. But goalies do score goals, and kickers do throw touchdown passes, and wide receivers do play defensive back, and when they do it’s as exciting as heck.

    I like to watch pitchers bat. We’ve been talking about Rick Camp for 35 years, not because he was great, but because he was awful.

    I like that Hoyt Wilhelm hit a home run in his first major league at-bat, and never hit another one in 21 years. I like that Joe Niekro hit 1 home run in his major league career – off Phil Niekro. I like that Rick Wise pitched a no-hitter and hit 2 home runs in the same game. I like that Tony Cloninger was the first National Leaguer to hit 2 grand slams in one game. I like that Terry Forster has the highest career batting average of anyone in major league history with at least 75 at bats, and I like that the last switch hitter to win the American League MVP was Vida Blue.

    I could look up some stuff on Nelson Cruz and I might find out he is a better hitter than every pitcher in major league history combined.

    But, I can’t tell you off the top of my head a single interesting thing that Nelson Cruz has ever done.

    And that’s why I like to watch pitchers bat.

  31. The DH may be inevitable, but it was a bad development for baseball and I’ll never change my mind about it. I’m old, so perhaps my opinion is predictable. It’s heartening, though, that a young bright guy like AAR understands.
    And kudos to Rusty @39.

  32. Rob nails it at 15. I prefer no DH in either league. That’s not happening. So I prefer DH in both league to get rid of the AL’s competitive advantage in signing/resting hitters. One could argue the NL has a slight edge attracting pitchers as they get to bat if that’s something they like and they get to face an extra weak hitter.

    It’s asinine that the league have had two rules for so long and that should end.

  33. @34

    For travel ball and HS, frequently the best overall player on the team is the pitcher and the DH is used for a position player.

    Even in college ball, the two-way player is common enough that there is the John Olerud Award to honor the best two-way player in Division 1. We’ve even got an Olerud winner on the farm (Brooks Wilson, 2019 Fire Frog).

    I will agree that pitchers aren’t selected for hitting ability and that it can be downright painful to watch Folty wave his bat in the general direction of the ball. However, for 100 years, pitchers were expected to at least to try to hit and many of them did OK.

    Chicks dig the longball.

  34. At the highest levels of the sport, it makes no sense to have pitchers work on hitting. They should be focused on being the best pitcher they can possibly be since that is how they will have the greatest impact on game outcomes.

  35. I don’t buy that logic — that’s like saying there’s no reason for left fielders to work on defense. Billy Hamilton can’t hit and Nick Castellanos can’t field, but that doesn’t mean they get a mulligan on actually doing it.

  36. The starter gets around 60 to 70 plate appearances over the course of a season in today’s game. Meanwhile he faces 700+ batters, throwing around 3000 pitches. Which of those two activities has the most bearing on how the game turns out?

  37. I agree that it’s exciting when you have a two-way player. Absolutely. It’s incredibly fun to watch Culberson dial up 93. Or Michael Lorenzen pitch, play centerfield, and hit bombs. But that’s kinda the point: it’s exciting when it can be done, and terrible to watch when it can’t. It’s not fun to watch Folty hit; it’s fun to watch Culberson pitch. One earned it, one is being forced to.

  38. I was anti-DH until about 3 years ago. My ideologies changed when my love for the super-sub took over. If there were someone that could play 7 positions and still produce at an above average level, that would put everyone in or around 145 games/year in the field and still hit on off days. I Just love the sound of that perfect scenario.

  39. @47 — nah, I’m not buying it. Last year, Tommy Pham had 158 putouts. Meanwhile, he saw 2604 pitches. (For Michael Brantley, it was 159 and 2316.) Those numbers are pretty close to the ones you’re citing for pitchers.

  40. While I see lots of people say what they think that makes me think why not say what I think. I do not like what they have done to the game. Me old fashioned traditional fan. The DH entirely changes the game. The wild card does as well making it possible for a second place inferior team like the Washington Nationals to enter the World Series and win when they won nothing during the season. One one game playoff instead of what matters the whole season? ReallyYThe tv playback of a play takes the drama out of the game as the replay makes it difficult to fuss at the ump. You cannot. Now talk of a robot ump. Who you gonna call? Well, you cannot cuss him out anymore anyways, so? You cannot slide into a player anymore to break up a play. Why don’t we let them all wear short pants and hit the ball off a tee? International play? Really? England? Really?Playing in Japan is bad enough. Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb where are you? We need you now.

  41. Currently high school and travel ball is trending towards having several PO’s on the roster (Pitcher Only). The kids with the best arms are identified early and coached to focus on just pitching. I don’t like it, but it is what it is. I certainly don’t want to watch a bunch of PO’s try to hit major league pitching.

  42. @51, I don’t follow the point you are trying to make. Just ball parking it, in the NL it seems pretty clear that > 90% of a starting pitcher’s value is wrapped up in how well he pitches, given that he faces batters more than 10 times as often as he faces pitchers. For a reliever, it is close to 100% pitching. For a starting position player, offensive contributions are more important than defensive contributions, but the tilt is not near as severe and varies depending on position.

  43. Bring on the DH. I hate watching NL teams struggle with strategy regarding an almost automatic out in the lineup. I come to see hits and homers. I pays my money, I wants to be satisfied. Pitchers hitting is like finding out that hot girl you’ve been admiring from behind is your cousin. Sure, they may may look like a total baseball player with a uniform and bat and everything, but it’s only going to be disappointing while potentially causing some squabbles.

  44. I said this a few weeks ago, but it’s the Internet, so I get to say it again. Yes, it’s painful watching Folty (career OPS+ -57) bat. But it was not painful watching Dontrelle Willis (career OPS+ +75) bat. That’s because Willis was way better than Folty at a fundamental baseball skill, even though Willis’ batting skill wasn’t nearly good enough to play any position other than pitcher. But the DH causes a difference in a fundamental baseball skill to be worthless. If pitcher A is a better hitter than pitcher B, even if he’s not absolutely good at hitting, that skill difference translates, all else equal, into a better chance of winning the game in a non-DH league. Some pitchers are better a tholding runners on than others; some are smarter than others; some can lay down a bunt to help the team and some can’t. By supporting the DH, you’re saying that someone can be better at a baseball skill than his counterpart without that difference counting for anything in your evaluation… Everything ought to count. And of course one of the jobs of managers is to manage around relative infirmities, like replacing a good-hitting shortstop for a better defender late in a game. Why pitcher differentials aren’t thought of this way is a mystery to me. Indeed, pitcher batting variances are as wide as outfield batting variances… just with a lower base.

  45. By the way, this has been a remarkable discussion. No matter your opinion, thanks for the input.
    Feels like a throwback to Mac day, for sure.

  46. Over the course of the season, whether pitcher A is better at the hitting skill than pitcher B does not seem all that relevant to outcomes because they have so few opportunities to exhibit that skill differential. Now if taken as a whole, one team’s staff was significantly better at hitting then another, then I could possibly see the argument. However, I’ve yet to see a pitcher lose his job because he couldn’t hit, which says something about that skill’s relative importance at that position.

    Whether you think the DH is good or bad or indifferent is mostly a matter of taste. But that’s not really the relevant discussion. The DH exists in virtually all leagues that matter (to most of us anyway) except the MLB NL. So given that fact, and the fact that it’s not going away in these other leagues, does it make sense for the NL to be the outlier? Can anyone make an argument beyond preferences as to why this should be the case?

  47. @53

    Wow, that’s scary. It’s been a while since I’ve been around HS ball, so it could be quite possible that pitcher-only HS players are becoming a thing. However, given what happens to pitcher’s arms on a regular basis, any young player who can do both at a very good level should stick with the bat as long as possible.

  48. @58: No pitcher loses his job because he can’t hit. But pitchers who are poorer hitters are more likely to be pulled earlier from games. Pitchers who can’t bunt lower expected runs for their team.

    But sure. As I said way up above, the preference for having pitchers hit is a principle, not a requirement. DH Leagues are still playing baseball…. baseball that has lost sight of a principle. Just kinda sad.

  49. JonathanF is right that one’s views as to the DH are not simply a matter of taste or opinion, but are based upon a principle.

    But it’s also the case that one’s views as to the DH in baseball depend largely upon your preference for the type of game you enjoy. I know folks (some chicks included) dig the long ball, but I’ve always preferred low scoring baseball. I’ll take a 1-0 or 2-1 game any day over a 10-8 slugfest. I’ve always thought the DH was a surrender to those who think baseball is boring unless more runs are scored.

  50. @64
    I hear you, but unfortunately those concerns were borne out by attendance figures in the years leading up to the DH. Attendance was flat throughout the 60s save for the occasional jolt provided mainly by franchise movement and expansion. It was thought lowering the mound would do the trick, but by 1972 offense had fallen back to late-’60s levels.

    One culprit that was not unmasked quickly enough was the glut of banjo-hitting middle infielders, and the lack of understanding how important offensive contributions were to the value of even “defense first” positions. Felix Millan, Marty Perez, Roger Metzger, Tim Foli, Denny Doyle, Enzo Hernandez, Dal Maxvill, Doug Griffin, Sandy Alomar, Rich Morales, Frank Duffy, Ed Brinkman, Rick Auerbach, Danny Thompson, Gene Michael, Hal Lanier…all starters in 1972 who would be utility players at best today. Guys like Bud Harrelson, Larry Bowa, and Bill Russell weren’t much better at the plate, but they at least got on base a little. Belanger was in a class by himself….

  51. @59, POs are very much a thing now. Every high school has very few players that do both now. Even on my college team, we have 9 pitchers and 7 are POs, myself and one other pitcher are the only ones that can hit as well. Watching all the other POs hit isn’t very fun for anybody, as they haven’t swung a bat in years.

  52. Matt P: Your comment reminds me that the bane of lacrosse now (to my preference) is the FOGO (Face off get off) in lacrosse: a player whose job it is to win a faceoff (there’s one after every goal, so a team with a great FOGO will get a team the ball back after a score) and then substitute off as soon as possible. My team, Yale, has the best FOGO in the country and they’re the best team in the country, so it’s not in personal interest to deplore this championing of a one-dimensional skill, but I do. The more dimensions of physical skill one has the chance to demonstrate the better. If I had my druthers, all kicking and punting in football would have to done by a player who played in the previous play…

  53. @65–you’re right that my love of pitcher’s duels and low run scoring environments is not the norm. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen studies that show that higher run scoring environments is correlated with higher attendance. For that and many other reasons the DH is never going away, and as many in this thread have pointed out, the NL will likely give in. I don’t have to like it, but MLB doesn’t have to care what I think. :)

    And thanks for the wonderful trip down memory lane with the list of light hitting middle infielders of the 60’ds and 70’s. That’s my formative baseball era, but I’m not so tied to the past that I now believe those guys were valuable baseball players. In fact, Earl Weaver, who was of course smarter than anyone of that era, understood that. He had Belanger, but he was paired with Dave Johnson and then Bobby Grich up the middle (excellent fielders themselves, but also much better hitters than the banjo guys you list). Speaking of Johnson, I recall that when he managed the Mets in the 80’s he often played Howard Johnson at shortstop to get the most good bats in the lineup. Bill James as I recall was complimentary of that strategy, but also pointed out that we didn’t then have good fielding data, so it was hard to know how much it cost you to sacrifice defense for offense at such a crucial position. Baseball folks have much better stats and data (and desire) to measure that now. And that’s why we don’t have many of those banjo middle infielders around today.

  54. Duvall just hit one dead center, into the wind, 410 feet…it stayed in the park. Dang it, he better start opening day.

  55. A triple by Harris and a homer by Christian Pache! I’d much rather beat down on the other Florida team, but beggars can’t be choosers.

  56. Pache just HR’d off of Poche. Camargo 2/3 with a DP in the field. Of course at 12-0, everyone looked good tonight.

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