As the Boston Red Sox prepare for baseball’s amateur draft on Monday night, they must wait their turn, with the No. 24th overall pick.

In recent years, thanks to horrible seasons in 2012, ’14 and ’15, the Red Sox had earlier selections in the following year’s draft.

That 2013 draft had the Red Sox wondering what they would get at No. 7. The last time Boston drafted that high was in 1993, taking a high school outfielder named Trot Nixon, who played eight seasons for the Red Sox.

It’s often a gamble taking a high school player; his development is harder to predict. Still, in 2013 the Red Sox chose high school left-handed pitcher Trey Ball.

Ball, who turns 23 late this month, is still grinding through the minors, in his first season with the Double-A Portland Sea Dogs.

Heading into Saturday night’s start, Ball was 1-5 with a 5.77 ERA. He’s pitched well is spurts but usually has a breakdown. He did put together back-to-back impressive starts (12 innings, eight hits, one earned run) in early May.

“The stuff’s there. The potential is still there,” said Sea Dogs pitching coach Kevin Walker. “It’s just the consistency of executing pitches.”

Turning a high school project into a fine-tuned pro is the challenge.

“When you draft a guy out of high school like that, you’re projecting a time frame, with patience,” said Red Sox president Dave Dombrowski.

Dombrowski was not with Boston when Ball was drafted. He was still running the Tigers (Dombrowski drafted college pitcher Jonathan Crawford with the 20th pick that year and later traded him).

Dombrowski has done well drafting college pitchers, including an Old Dominion right-hander named Justin Verlander in 2004 (second overall).

Of course, Dombrowski drafted college pitcher Andrew Miller with the sixth overall pick in 2006. The Dodgers were up next and they went after a high school pitcher. Clayton Kershaw has worked out for Los Angeles.

The next year the Tigers did draft a high school pitcher in the first round (27th overall) – Rick Porcello.

High school firsts

When you look at the best pitchers over the past five years, based on Cy Young Award voting, 10 of the top 20 were drafted out of college, two were international free agents and eight came out of high school – Kershaw, Porcello, Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain, Jose Fernandez, Zack Greinke, Jon Lester and Max Scherzer. All but Lester were first-rounders.

The Red Sox picked Lester in the second round in 2002. He was in Portland in 2005, named the Eastern League Pitcher of the Year at age 21. He reached the majors the next season.

Obviously the Red Sox had hopes for a high-ceiling pitcher when they chose Ball.

“We viewed Trey as one of the most complete players available in this year’s draft,” said Amiel Sawdaye, then the Red Sox director of amateur scouting (and now with Arizona).

The 2013 draft was not deep. Even some of the can’t-miss selections have missed. The Astros took Stanford right-hander Mark Appel with the first pick. He was considered a lock but still hasn’t reached the majors, now toiling in Triple-A with the Phillies. Houston’s miss was the Cubs’ gain, since they chose University of San Diego third baseman Kris Bryant.

Minnesota drafted the first high school player, right-handed pitcher Kohl Stewart with the No. 4 pick. He’s in Double-A.

Not a lot of first-round players have broken out, although shortstop Tim Anderson, chosen out of a community college, is starting for the White Sox.

The surprise selection of 2013 came with the 32nd pick – meaning every team passed on him the first time. But the Yankees, with their second pick, chose college outfielder Aaron Judge, who leads the majors in home runs.

Here was the Baseball America report on Judge before the draft: “Judge puts on jaw-dropping batting practice displays, but some scouts worry that his power won’t translate to games.”

The 2013 draft didn’t seem too bountiful. None of Boston’s picks have played in Fenway yet. Second-rounder Teddy Stankiewicz, a junior college pitcher, is in his second year with the Sea Dogs.


Ball is 6-foot-6 and from New Castle, Indiana. Naturally he played basketball but gave it up after his sophomore year in high school.

Ball focused on baseball, where he was both a star pitcher and outfielder. Before the draft, teams debated what position he would play.

“I was a pretty decent hitter,” Ball said. “Before the draft, there were a lot of teams 50-50 – pitcher or hitter. Whatever the team wanted, I was going to commit 100 percent to that.”

Most liked his arm. According to Baseball America’s 2013 draft preview: “He has excelled on the mound to the extent he would go in the first five picks … (He’s) the top left-hander available … he has plenty of room to add strength and velocity.”

Boston chose Ball and signed him for $2.75 million. The next year, although Ball was only 19, the Red Sox sent him to low Class A Greenville. He took a pounding at first but settled in for the second half with a 4-4 record and 3.36 ERA.

Ball struggled in Salem in 2015 (4.73 ERA) and returned there in 2016. Ball developed a slider to go with his low 90s fastball, curve and change-up. He had a 3.84 ERA (which was 2.64 if you throw out an atrocious July).

“Last year was a bit of a turning point for him,” said Red Sox director of player development Ben Crockett. “He has a nice four-pitch mix. The slider has become more prominent, and he’s done a better job of understanding how to best use his stuff.”

Ball is taking his time.

“It’s just a process you have to go through,” he said. “Being young coming out, there’s a lot to work on.

“It’s coming together. A lot of work, trusting the process, being consistent and trusting yourself.

“It’s easy for me to be patient. I’ve always been a patient guy when it comes to baseball.”

Boston can take its time with Ball. He does not become a minor league free agent until after 2019.

Meanwhile, Boston is being patient with another lefty drafted out of high school. Henry Owens, now 24, showed promise but is still in Triple-A – 40 walks and 47 hits in 531/3 innings this year.

Owens was drafted 36th overall in 2011. Most of the high school pitchers taken early in that draft have reached the majors, including Orioles starter Dylan Bundy (fourth overall).

With the No. 7 pick in 2011, Colorado chose high school right-handed pitcher Archie Bradley. He reached the majors in 2014 but struggled as a starter. The Rockies made him a reliever this year, and he’s dealing with a 1.35 ERA and 0.90 WHIP.

Maybe the bullpen will be Ball’s eventual spot. Meanwhile the lessons continue.

“Once he starts making his pitches when he needs to, his stuff’s going to play. It’s going to be fine,” said Walker, the Portland pitching coach. “It’s a work in progress, definitely.”

Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or:

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Twitter: @ClearTheBases