What has to go Right (or Wrong) for Bryce Ball

In a move that many connected to Freddie Freeman‘s COVID-19 diagnosis, Bryce Ball was added to the player pool on Wednesday of this week. It was our stand-in podcaster and sometimes author David Lee that broke the news:

While I think that Ball’s promotion has a faint connection to Freddie, I think it has much more to do with the lack of left-handed hitters in a lineup that will definitely be missing Nick Markakis and likely be missing Freddie Freeman for a bit.

I’ve already covered in length the Braves need for a LH bat and that was before they lost the aforementioned duo. Now with Ender Inciarte being the lone lefty and Ozzie Albies and Johan Camargo being the only 2 switch hitters, the Braves are in a real bind and need to find a replacement in the lineup that will face some of the toughest RHP in the game for the majority of the season. As of now, the players in camp that could be called on, Yonder Alonso and Yangervis Solarte, are past their prime and aren’t very desirable options. And while I think there’s a chance that the Braves will look around the free agent market (Scooter Gennett, Ben Zobrist), like Alonso and Solarte, there’s high risk there. So…in walks Bryce Ball.

Bryce Ball: David Lee’s Breakdown

First off, I’ll give the floor to David Lee again. His work over at BravesProspects.com deserves your consideration for subscription as there’s nothing else out there that goes so in-depth on Braves farmhands. Here’s his latest on Ball:

What could Ball provide if he does get a call? Power. Lots of it. He matches Alex Jackson for the best raw power in the system at 70 grade. It’s light-tower stuff with huge, easy carry from a massive frame that produces natural strength. He showed it in spring training by going down to get a pitch and carrying it out to left-center. What makes Ball unique as a first-base-only profile is the ability to track pitches and make consistent contact. He’s not the typical power-only bat, because he shows solid barrel awareness and covers the plate well. He may still get beat inside at times because of his length, but he has an idea at the plate and knows when to settle for contact to all fields.

David Lee

Now that in and of itself sounds awesome and many after reading that would scream, “WHERE DO I SIGN?”, but in the same piece David reminds us to temper our expectations:

While I continue to say that anything can happen over the course of these 60 games and beyond, I doubt we see Ball on the major league field this year. He has 21 games of pro experience beyond short-season ball, and that was at Low-A Rome.

David Lee

Bryce Ball: What has to go wrong

In order for Bryce Ball to make it to the majors this year, a lot has to go wrong for the Braves. While we can all be excited about the player that Ball could become, let’s remind ourselves quickly that he was drafted last year and has a grand total of 263 (glorious) plate appearances in professional ball. In order for him to even get a look at the roster, the Braves will have had to fail miserably on many fronts:

  1. Freddie Freeman out longer than expected: No one wants to hear this, but this virus is unpredictable and while it could be possible that Freddie is back in camp before Opening Day, the more likely scenario is that Freddie will miss 2 weeks of the season.
  2. As a whole, Braves Flail against RHP: If the team is performing admirably against all the RH studs in the NL and AL east, then there’ll be no need to add another left-handed bat. However, if the team is failing miserably then look for them to make a change.
  3. Alonso becomes AlonsNO! and Yangervis Solarte, Bringer of Sun, becomes Bringer of Tears: At this point, I think one of these 2 guys break camp with the Braves and my expectations are quite low. Your’s should be, too.
  4. Braves miss out on Free Agent Targets: I’ve already mentioned the targets above so no need to mention again, but it’s worth noting that nearly every spring, players become available right before Opening Day. While I don’t expect many to become available, seeing as though rosters will be set at 30, I do expect some but will likely be more like Yonder Alonso and less like Matt Joyce.

Bryce Ball: What has to go right

Now, if all the scenarios above play out and the Braves are getting desperate enough to make a desperate move, Bryce Ball could get a shot. Let us remind ourselves that Bryce was a college player and is already 22. Sure, he doesn’t have much pro experience, but he’s also not a high school draftee. Crazier things have happened and while I’m not expecting it, I’m not going to completely rule it out either. Still, there are things the Braves will need to see in order for Bryce to get consideration:

  1. Reduce Strikeouts against advanced competition: Ball carried a very respectable strikeout % in his first year of pro ball. However, most of that was against competition younger than him. While it was a small sample, Ball K’d over 40% of his ABs in spring training 1.0.
  2. Show he belongs: The Braves are loaded with pitchers in their player pool that are Major League ready and that will be the ultimate test for Ball. Impressing in Spring Training 2.0, then continuing to impress in player pool workouts against advanced competition, will definitely grab attention.

Wrapup

Let’s be honest…it’s best if Ball gets great experience in the player pool, advances his skillset, then is ready to take over the Braves DH spot sometime in 2021. None of us Braves fans want to see 1-4 in the “wrong” section occur and, in all likelihood, it won’t. However, if it does and Ball completes 1 and 2 in the “right” section, he could fill a need and that could be exciting to watch.

Thanks for reading our breakdown of Bryce Ball. If you enjoyed this piece, check out all of our thoughts on Braves Prospects here.

Author: Ryan Cothran

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

16 thoughts on “What has to go Right (or Wrong) for Bryce Ball”

  1. Great write up, I’m glued to the Bryce Ball situation, hope he can get reps at 1B so Riley can get much needed 3B reps. Thanks again for the solid info!

  2. One question, not necessarily related to Ball. Will someone who plays 60 games this year be eligible for rookie of the year next year?

  3. I wouldn’t think so but that’s a really good question.

    I’m awfully concerned about promoting Ball to the majors. Maybe I’m overly scarred by the Jeff Francoeur experience, but in general, for a promising but flawed hitter with a hole in his swing, the only solution is more time in the high minors. Obviously, that’s particularly problematic this year. But in the majors, one of two things is likely to happen, both of them bad:

    First (more likely), he comes up and badly scuffles. This could damage his confidence and set back his development. I’m pretty sure this is what happened to Scott Thorman, who — like it or not — pretty much fit the same model for what we’re hoping from Bryce Ball, a big powerful lefty first baseman. If you squint, you could also argue this is what happened to Jordan “Success” Schafer. And, the jury’s out, but kindamaybesorta also Dansby Swanson. Also, probably Jo-Jo Reyes.

    Second (less likely), he comes up and tears the cover off the ball. This could cement some bad habits and make it harder for him to unlearn them. Obviously, this is what happened to Jeff Francoeur, but also kinda Jason Marquis, whose famous bullheadedness may have been influenced by the fact that his career-best ERA literally came in his rookie year.

    Trouble is, this year is going to be terrible for guys like Ball and Drew Waters, who badly need to keep growing and developing in the minor leagues but have no way to do so. If Ball gets a few garbage time looks at real major league pitching and that helps inspire him to close the holes in his swing so he can hit his way into the Show for good, so much the better. But Ball is less ready for the majors than Schafer was when we gave him the center field job, and I don’t want to do something in the short term that could harm him in the long term. His ceiling is too high and his floor is too low.

  4. 5 — Agreed. Ball needs a full year in the high minors hitting pitchers successfully before getting the call. I would put his ETA in 2022, not 2021.

  5. Is it just me, or is Atlanta having a bigger problem than others having guys ready for the season? We’ve had more opt outs, COVID positives, and guys simply not ready than it seems other teams are experiencing.

  6. I believe that it all depends on what the fundamental flaw a player has as to whether being overwhelmed — or being ridiculously lucky and successful — can undermine a career. Success! was a guy who never put up good numbers except during his chemically enhanced season at AA. He really didn’t have a base to build on. Similarly, Jeffy had a fatal pitch recognition flaw paired with a slow enough bat for it to really matter. Ball otoh has a hole in his swing inside but has good pitch recognition and decent plate coverage skills — I’d like to think he just needs reps and the building of muscle memory to reach his power. This is the kind of guy who sometimes surprises you and excels at higher levels. While I don’t expect him to play this season I have every hope his time with the big boys this summer leads to a productive bat in the near future.

  7. I’m firmly on record as not loving the Braves offseason moves, but it think the whole situation now is going to shield the FO from the eventual criticism. Hamels isn’t healthy for most of a weird, short season? No big deal. Ozuna is super hot for 2 months? Great signing, where’s the extension! Ozuna is super cold for 2 months? Well, it was an odd season.

    After accepting the offseason moves, I had changed my hopes to 2021 thinking they needed another year of battery revenues to REALLY increase payroll, make some premium free agent signings Or trades (a big LH bat and a top-of-the-rotation SP please) and really make the most of paying Ozzie and Ronald peanuts while Freddie is still in his prime.

    Now I wonder if that plan is shot to hell too. I know I’m kind of yelling at clouds here, but man I just want the team to finally pony up and go all-in on a championship caliber club. Yet I can still totally see us having the same debates over when Ender should play and whether Folty can take that next step all over agin next year.

  8. I was going to type something in response to AAR, but I’ll just say “what Snowshine said”.

  9. Jordan Schafer also hurt his wrist which apparently took away his power. Maybe the roids affected him I don’t know.

    Thorman didn’t get the call until he was 25. He had plenty of development time, he just wasn’t good.

    I never felt like Jo Jo had a clue where the ball was going.

    I do feel like Francoeur was rushed. He wasn’t even doing that well at Mississippi when he got the call.

  10. I have been listening to the MLB station on XM radio. The pundits on that station are really high on the Braves. I hope they know what they’re talking about. I think they’re right.

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