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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
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.