June 9, 2013

On Baseball: Time will tell if Sox have something on Ball

By Kevin Thomas kthomas@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

The Boston Red Sox said they drafted the best player available when they chose high school left-handed pitcher Trey Ball with the No. 7 pick in the first round Thursday.

You can read between the lines there since it's possible Boston really wanted someone else, like high school right-handed pitcher Kohl Stewart (the Twins' pick at No. 4) or high school outfielder Clint Frazier (the Indians' pick at No. 5).

But who knows? As former Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein likes to say, the draft is an "imperfect search." Ball could be the best of the bunch.

Boston has done well with young left-handers before.

But will Ball show the ability of a Jon Lester, or even the promise of a Drake Britton or Henry Owens? Or is he the next Mike Rozier?

Boston will spend about $3.2 million to find out. That is the bonus money Ball is slotted to receive in signing as the seventh overall pick.

Boston has not spent that much before, but it has written big checks for lefties out of high school.

Lester, a second-round pick in 2002, received a $1 million bonus. He's working out for Boston.

In 2004 the Red Sox drafted Rozier in the 12th round. Rozier also was a quarterback and had a football scholarship to the University of North Carolina. Boston gave him $1.6 million to stick with baseball. But besides one start for the Sea Dogs in 2006, he never got out of Class A ball and was released in 2009.

Britton was drafted in the 23rd round out of a Texas high school in 2007 and signed for $700,000. In his second year on the Red Sox 40-man roster, he is on the cusp of a promotion to Triple-A.

Owens, 20, shows a lot of promise after being drafted in 2011 in the sandwich round (36th overall) out of Edison High School in Huntington Beach, Calif. Owens signed for $1.5 million. In only his second pro season, he is an All-Star at advanced Class A Salem and could be in Portland this summer.

Now along comes Ball, ranked No. 9 on a list of 500 draft prospects by Baseball America. The scouting report: 6-foot-6, 180 pounds, fastball in the 91-94 mph range, very good change-up, above-average curve.

Ball is also a good athlete and was considered by some teams as a better prospect as an outfielder.

Ball pitched for New Castle (Ind.) High school, which is about 20 miles from Pendleton Heights High, where the Sea Dogs' Brock Huntzinger pitched. Huntzinger was a third-round pick in 2007.

DAVID MURPHY was in New England this past week, bringing back memories of Epstein's first draft for Boston 10 years ago. Murphy, an outfielder out of Baylor, was Boston's first pick. He played for Portland in 2005 and 2006, reaching the majors at the end of '06. Murphy was traded to Texas the next year.

Murphy had always platooned with Texas. But with Josh Hamilton leaving for free agency after last season, Murphy began this year as a regular. He slumped badly in April (.176), but hit .286 in May and is on the rise.

"I'm no stranger to starting slow but I had a miserable April," Murphy said. "This year was different because I was playing every day. I wasn't myself. I couldn't find my feel. I feel like I'm in a pretty good place right now."

(Continued on page 2)

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