Bryce Ball – Pitcure by Todd Johnson
Last summer was one of the most wild and crazy summers I can remember as the Cubs were making trades and adding prospects all throughout the month of July. The first of those 12 guys the Cubs acquired that I got to see was Bryce Ball. I can still remember it – it was a Sunday afternoon up in Appleton, Wisconsin and I saw him walk by me. I could not believe how huge this kid was.
At 6-foot-6 and 240 pounds, he is huge now but he can still add more muscle and it looks like he has this year. Over the course of the last eight weeks of 2021, I got to see a lot of Ball in Appleton, the Quad Cities, Beloit, and again in the Quad Cities. In that time, there were things to be impressed with and things that he needed to work on over the winter if he was going to be somebody.
One thing that was clear last year was Ball had an outstanding approach at the plate. He sees the baseball well, he works the count, and has easy power to all fields. With all those positive attributes, there were only two things that he needed to work on. One was hitting a curveball in a strike two count and two was not making an out with said curveball via a strikeout.
After Ball was drafted by the Braves in 2019, he tore it up that first year. He hit 17 home runs along with an OPS of 1.023. It was all anybody could’ve asked for for a kid straight out of Dallas Baptist.
He was assigned to begin 2021 in th South Atlantic League. His batting average plummeted while his walk rate did not. After being traded to the Cubs, Ball had perfectly similar numbers except for RBI. For each team, he played about 50+ games, hit six or seven home runs, and barely scratched an average of .200. Still, the power potential remained off the charts. We are talking 70 to 75 grade power.
It was clear early on in his Cubs tenure that Ball was going to be given every opportunity to play first base ahead of other prospects. The Cubs were all in and focused on turning him into the player he was in 2019 coming out of college than the one in 2021.
Ball got off to a really hot start this year and then team started to adjust. But then Ball adjusted back and has just been tearing the cover off the baseball in the Southern League. He’s hitting almost .300 now, he’s still walking at a high rate, he’s not striking out, and he’s being aggressive early in the count, something he tended not to do last year as he like to work long at-bats.
We’re also seeing a marked improvement in his ability to hit a curveball, especially away from him on the plate. He is striking out dramatically less (27% down to 18%) this year and he looks to be somewhat protected in a pretty potent lineup down in Tennessee.
Last night, after this post was already written and somewhat edited, Ball had himself a night as he went 4-for-7 in a doubleheader with a HR, double, and 6 RBI in the nightcap. Just in May, he is hitting .395 with an 1.191 OPS, 3 HRs, and 16 RBI in just 11 games. And, yes, today is just the 13th. There’s a lot of baseball left to be played.
It’s not uncommon for a player to get hot for a month, it happens all the time. When Ball came out of the shoot, I was a little hesitant to jump on board. But now we’re approaching six weeks of hotness. This is something more than just a hot streak. If he continues to hit at these levels in June, he’s going be one phone call away from Chicago. And with that kind of power and approach, the Cubs may have that left-handed power bat they currently lack.
My fingers are crossed he continues to rake and produce.