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Cubs’ 1B Prospect Bryce Ball is Balling Out at Double-A Tennessee

The 24-year-old is on fire to start the season at Double-A Tennessee.
Bryce Ball Chicago Cubs Prospect

Photo: Ed McGregor/South Bend Cubs

While the Chicago Cubs attempt to figure out the first base position at the big-league level since Anthony Rizzo’s departure, the farm system has lacked depth. There isn’t a first baseman of note coming through the system…or is there? Bryce Ball would like a word.

Last Season’s Numbers

Acquired in mid-July of last season in a trade that sent Joc Pederson to the Atlanta Braves, Bryce Ball hit .207 with a .351 OBP and seven home runs in 53 games at High-A South Bend. It wasn’t an impressive stat line as far as batting average goes, and his strikeout rate sat too high at 27.6 percent. Nonetheless, his 17.8 percent walk rate and .351 OBP were encouraging.

Raw Talent and Makeup 

The 24-year-old was a 24th-round selection by the Atlanta Braves in the 2019 MLB Draft. When Ball came over in the Joc Pederson trade, he was the 12th-ranked prospect in the Braves farm system, according to MLB.com. His 6-foot-6 frame, raw power from the left side of the plate, and a good eye for the strike zone make him an intriguing prospect.

Defensively at first base, Fangraphs lists Ball with a 45 current and 50 future grade. 50 is average, so that’ll play at the big-league level. Even a 45 isn’t horrible, given it’s easier to hide a mediocre defender at first base than other positions of need. The addition of the DH in the National League could also help the Chicago Cubs get him off the diamond while keeping him in the lineup.

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Balling Out 

Before the season, Bryce Ball was assigned to Double-A Tennessee. Balling out would be an understatement at this point. Ball has hit five homers in his last 14 games and went 4-for-7 with a homer and six RBIs in Thursday's doubleheader against the Montgomery Biscuits.

In his last 16 games (70 plate appearances), Ball is slashing .375/.429/.734 (1.163 OPS) with five homers, six doubles, and 23 RBIs. For the season, Ball is hitting .313 with a 143 wRC+, and he’s cut his strikeout rate down to 18.5 percent.

Ball’s Future Outlook and the Cubs’ First Base Situation

As mentioned earlier, the Cubs’ farm system lacks depth at the first base position. Alfonso Rivas and Frank Schwindel are battling it out for the time being, but the long-term solution is up in the air. Rivas is the younger of the two and has done a fine job in limited big-league action. However, many scouts have concerns about his power potential moving forward. The bat-to-ball skills and good plate approach earned him a callup, but will he genuinely develop and continue to increase his in-game power?

Ball already has in-game power and even more raw power. Rivas is the better fielder and has more advanced plate skills at this point. However, Ball’s raw power and in-game power are better than Rivas. We’ll need to wait and see how he fares moving forward. It’s incredibly early to make rash conclusions on Ball’s future outlook. However, he seems to be on the right path and inching closer to another promotion. Triple-A Iowa would be the next stop for Bryce, and he is a Mason City, Iowa native. Principal Park in Des Moines, Iowa, is about a two-hour drive from Mason City.

Bryce Ball is positioned for a future opportunity without a first baseman listed among the Chicago Cubs’ top 30 prospects on MLB.com. Is his recent production a sign of things to come or just a hot stretch to start the season? Time will tell. Let’s hope the "ball don’t lie" in Bryce's case.