The Boston Red Sox added two new pitching prospects to the farm system on Thursday after drafting left-hander Trey Ball and right-hander Teddy Stankiewicz.
With the seventh overall pick and the club's only first-rounder, Boston selected Ball out of New Castle High School in Indiana. Unfortunately for director of scouting Amiel Sawdaye, the team's reported top two targets, pitcher Kohl Stewart and outfield Clint Frazier, went off the board to the Twins and Indians at fourth and fifth overall, respectively. That said, Boston drafted the best pitcher available on the board. Ball is generally considered a top-10 talent and the top lefty in the draft class.
After finishing the 2013 season with a 0.76 ERA and 93 strikeouts in 46 innings, Ball was recently named the Indiana Gatorade Baseball Player of the Year.
At 6-foot-6 and 180 pounds, the 18-year-old southpaw still has tons of projection in his frame. His fastball already gets up to the 92-94 mph, and he has the potential to add a good deal of sitting velocity as he physically matures in the coming years. He also throws a developing mid-70s deep-breaking curveball with plus potential -- a pitch that his father did not let him throw until he was a junior in high school in order to limit injury risk. His third pitch is a solid 78- to 82-mph changeup, which is still a work-in-progress but has above-average major league potential. He throws all of his pitches with an easy, repeatable delivery and a clean arm action.
He compares favorably to current Red Sox prospect Henry Owens, another tall lefty whom the Red Sox drafted in the supplemental first round in 2010 out of Edison High School in California. Owens, now 20, is currently pitching for the High-A Salem Red Sox (4-2, 3.21 ERA, 68 strikeouts in 56 innings) and is a prime candidate to make the Carolina League All-Star Game this season. The two pitchers have a similar mix of pitches, but Ball's fastball is more projectable at this point.
An elite athlete, Ball is the best two-way player available this draft, as he was reportedly also considered a first-round candidate as a center fielder. As an outfielder, he showcased a combination of plus speed, gritty makeup and above-average power potential in high school.
He's committed to play for the University of Texas in the fall, but is not considered a signability risk at the No. 7 spot, which has a recommended slot bonus of $3,246,000. Ball will likely sign for at or around the slot recommendation later this month, at which time he'll likely be assigned to the rookie-level Gulf Coast League Red Sox. He'll have an outside shot at pitching with the Class-A Lowell Spinners later in the year.
Overall, the lanky lefty has the makings of a top-of-the-rotation starter, but one who may require a multi-year advancement through the system, possibly on a one-level-per-year path like Owens. In that case, Ball would be assigned to Low-A Greenville in 2014, Salem in 2015, reach Double-A in 2016, with a major league ETA in the late 2016 or 2017 time frame. Like many young pitchers, his developmental opportunities include adding size and physical strength, and developing his secondary pitches.
The seventh overall pick was the highest selection the club has had since 1993 when Boston selected outfielder Trot Nixon out of New Hanover High School in North Carolina. The most notable player whom the Red Sox passed on at No. 7 this year was Grayson (Ga.) High School outfielder Austin Meadows, whom the club had been linked to in several pre-draft reports.
In the second round, Boston picked Stankiewicz out of Seminole State (Okla.) at No. 45 overall -- the pick that the front office coveted enough to avoid signing any compensation free agents last offseason. The 19-year-old junior college freshman from Keller (Texas) went 4-5 with a 2.52 ERA and 70 strikeouts in 60 2/3 innings for the Trojans in 2013.
He was selected by the Mets out of high school in the second round in 2012, but didn't sign in favor of heading to the University of Arkansas. He later changed course and opted to attend Seminole State in order to be draft eligible again this year. After making some developmental progress in 2013, the right-hander was considered one of the top few draft prospects among the junior college ranks in this year's draft class. However, he was generally not considered among the top-75 prospects in the draft by most major scouting outlets.
Like Ball, he has a projectable frame, although Stankiewicz filled out a bit as a freshman and now comes in at 6-foot-4, 215 pounds. His delivery is somewhat violent and could use some cleaning up, but he has shown the ability to maintain a consistent three-quarters release point. His arsenal includes a 92- to 96-mph fastball, a plus low-80s changeup, a workable mid-70s curveball, and a decent low-80s slider. He throws his entire repertoire with solid-average command and control, and he mixes it up well.
While Stankiewicz will have the option to recommit to Arkansas, it seems highly likely that he will sign with Boston. It's possible he had come to an agreement with the club prior to his selection. There's a good chance he will agree to sign for below slot, which is $1,229,600 for the No. 45 selection. If he signs in June, he'll most likely be assigned to the Gulf Coast League with Ball, and have an opportunity for a jump up to Lowell.
Stankiewicz profiles as a middle-of-the-rotation starter, and will likely follow a similar path as Ball through the Red Sox system. Early in his development, he may be best suited to scrap his curveball and focus on his slider, which has plus potential. The team will also likely begin working on tweaking his mechanics in 2014.
The top draft prospects that Boston left on the board at No. 45 were Stanford outfielder Austin Wilson, Mississippi right-hander Bobby Wahl, and Yukon (Okla.) High School catcher Jonathan Denney.