Top pick Trey Ball 'surprised' by Sox call

BOSTON -- Maybe this is what general manager Ben Cherington and scouting director Amiel Sawdaye had planned all along. Deep into the night Thursday, they were still working their draft board for later picks, so they have yet to discuss their strategy.

But instead of choosing one of two high school outfielders from Georgia, as had been widely predicted, the Boston Red Sox used their highest draft choice in 20 years to select a 6-foot-6, left-handed pitcher out of a high school in Indiana best known for producing NBA stars Steve Alford and Kent Benson.

Trey Ball, an 18-year-old just four days past his graduation from New Castle High, said he was as shocked as anyone when the call came from the Red Sox, informing him that he had been selected with the seventh overall pick in the 2013 MLB draft.

"We were all surprised," Ball said. "Once they read the name, everyone erupted, everyone was yelling and screaming. I hugged my mom first, that was a moment I'll never forget."

Ball had elected to stay home for the draft, instead of accepting an offer from MLB to fly to the site of the draft, the MLB Network studios in Secaucus, N.J. He said he wanted to share the experience with the people who had supported him the most, and thus was surrounded by 30 friends and members of his family for a call that he admitted came sooner than he thought.

He'd had a lot of contact with the Red Sox, he said, but thought they'd pass on him.

"Coming in, I heard mostly between [pick] eight and 14," he said. "Being picked seventh by Boston, it was great. I'm speechless."

The Sox had been linked with Georgia high school outfielders Clint Frazier and Austin Meadows, both from Loganville, Ga., but from different schools.

But the Cleveland Indians, choosing fifth, selected sweet-swinging righty Frazier. Meadows was still on the board for the taking, but the Sox, perhaps revealing an affinity for pitchers of a certain height, went for Ball instead.

In recent years, the Sox in drafts overseen by Sawdaye have used high picks to draft four other pitchers that, like Ball, were at least 6-foot-6: Henry Owens, Pat Light, Ty Buttrey and Anthony Ranaudo.

Meadows was taken two picks later, by Pittsburgh, at ninth overall.

With a projectable frame that is expected to fill out, Ball compares favorably to another Red Sox first-rounder in Owens, a 6-foot-7 lefty taken in the 2011 supplemental round and currently ranked seventh in Boston's minor league system by SoxProspects.com. Owens, who is pitching for Class A Salem, wowed many this spring by striking out 13 of 15 batters he faced in a minor league intrasquad game.

Ball, meanwhile, acknowledged modeling himself after one of the game's best left-handers.

"I look up to Cliff Lee," he said. "The way he's always constantly in the zone with all his pitches, that's what I try to strive for."

Ball came into the draft regarded as one of the better two-way talents. Ranked as the No. 1 left-handed pitcher in the draft by Baseball America and as a second- to third-round talent in the outfield by BA's Jim Callis, Ball showed impact talent in both roles.

This season he pitched to a 6-0 record with 93 strikeouts in 46 innings, while also hitting .330 with 10 home runs.

Ball's selection was announced as a pitcher, and just as with another former Sox first-rounder who played both ways, Casey Kelly, their No. 1 pick in 2008, the Sox are expected to develop Ball as a pitcher. Kelly, now with the Padres, had stipulated contractually that he be given a chance to prove himself as a shortstop, but Ball sounded willing to accede to Boston's plans.

Possessing a fastball that has touched 94 mph, as well as displaying an advanced feel for his breaking ball and changeup, Ball projects as a front-line starter. Interestingly, he said his father, Ron, would not allow him to throw a curveball until his junior year.

"I feel like my fastball's my go-to pitch," Ball said. "I've only been throwing a curveball for about a year and a half now. My father had restricted me on throwing a curveball to preserve my arm."

Ball is committed to the University of Texas but is expected to sign with the Red Sox before the July 12 deadline. If he does not sign by then, he would re-enter the draft next season, and the Sox would be given a compensatory pick in the 2014 draft. If he signs with the Sox, he is expected to begin his pro career with the short-season Class A Lowell Spinners.

MLB has recommended a $3.246 million bonus for the No. 7 selection. The Sox have the option of paying him more, but would have to deduct that amount from their total bonus pool of $6,830,200 for all draft picks.

"[I'm looking for] the best fit for me and my family," Ball said. "I feel that Boston is right for me."

Kyle Brasseur is an intern for ESPNBoston.com.