Recently Halo Hangout went to Inland Empire to talk one of the LA Angels 2017 Rule 5 Draft picks; a talented young RHP swiftly nabbed from the Rangers, the 23 year old Matt Ball.
The LA Angels are full of prime prospects; guys like Jo Adell, Jahmai Jones and Brandon Marsh all rank as the Angels top young athletes in an organization filled with talent. Like any baseball team, the 66ers don’t just play the game of top ranked prospects and obvious blow-out talent, like any roster the talent is from top to bottom. One of the taglines you might hear regarding Minor League Baseball is “come see the stars of tomorrow play today!”, and with the Angels Minor League talents there happen to be plenty of stars whose talents are unfolding.
Just as that phrase goes, all of these players have the potential to be the stars of tomorrow; guys like Tyler Stevens, Daniel Procopio, Jeremy Beasley, Brandon Sandoval and Jared Walsh to name a handful, all former 66ers. These were all players who spent time under the radar with the 66ers this season before their talents blew up and rocketed them up the levels of the organization.
Jared Walsh, the former 66ers first baseman, has cleared his way from High A to Triple A in a matter of months. Daniel Procopio fireballed hitters to a sub 1 ERA before moving up; all these players have similar stories of developing under the radar before their natural explosive talents began coming to fruition.
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Now there’s Matt Ball, starting pitcher for the Inland Empire 66ers, who has both the future potential and present talent to follow the path of these former 66ers who now display the worlds of talent they own at the higher levels of the Angels system. A ballplayer who has persevered through trials and tribulations and found his talent multiplied tenfold as his journey through the Minor Leagues continue.
Matt Ball hasn’t always been an Angel, initially being drafted by the White Sox in 2013 before making his way to the Rangers organization. He spent two seasons with the Rangers before being called home to Anaheim during the 2017 Rule 5 Draft, in which the Angels nabbed the talented starter from a sleeping Rangers organization.
Throughout his journey with these multiple organizations, Ball has seen his talents improve time and time again. His first few seasons with the White Sox introduced Ball to the learning curve of professional baseball, and by his 2016 season he showed how far he’d come since his professional debut.
RHP Matt Ball #48
H.H: You were drafted by the White Sox in 2013 and spent time with the Rangers organization. How does it feel to be back home as an Angel?
Ball: It’s nice, I grew up an Angel fan through my grandmother. It’s cool to be able to play for her favorite team, the team I grew up watching. It’s exciting.
H.H: Having played for two organization prior, what strikes you the most with the Angels compared to your previous spots?
Ball: They’re very relaxed, in a good way. They give us the freedom to tinker, try this or that; honestly whatever works for us. I think it’s a comfortable environment to improve. I feel like a lot of guys thrive that way. It’s not so cookie cutter, you can just be yourself and pitch your game.
H.H: You’ve had a successful 1st half with the 66ers, how do you plan to build upon and continue that success?
Ball: Just gotta continue the work I’ve been putting in and try not to get complacent. Try to continue to improve everyday and improve as the season goes on.
Career Strikeouts; 251
Matt Balls 2016 with the Rangers showed how much talent he has not only within himself currently, but how much potential he still has yet to capture. In that 2016 season, Ball posted a 2.30 ERA in split time with the White Sox and Rangers. His time with the White Sox saw him pitch to a 4.50 ERA in 16 innings before he moved on to the Rangers Class A organization and blossomed, pitching to a 1.60 ERA in 50.2 innings pitched. At this point, Matt Ball began to find success as a starter, though in short time as he only made four starts across his 31 appearances.
In his starts that year, Ball pitched 20 innings while allowing only two runs with zero long balls allowed in that span. The following season, Matt Ball found himself facing one of the biggest trials in professional baseball, injury. His season ended mid-June that year, an early exit from a talented young man. This was just another trial for Ball to conquer, as he conquered the learning curve of pro-ball presented to him at the start of his career.
After his 2017 season was stifled by injury, Ball was picked up by the Angels in the 2017 Rule 5 Draft from the Rangers. Coming into the Angels system, being placed with the Class A Advanced Inland Empire 66ers, Ball picked up from right where he left off, stifling hitters to an embarrassingly low .200 batting average while maintaining an ERA in the low to mid 3’s.
Ball has shown the ability to shut down the power production of the opposing offense offers wonder at how refined his game can truly get as he evolves throughout the Minor League levels. In total, he’s allowed only eight extra base hits on the year while keeping hitters slugging under .400.
2016 Games Played; 31
H.H: What have you been working on this season to further settle into your starting role?
Ball: Just the routine, the things that go on behind the scenes in between the start days. Making sure I’m in good shape and I’m feeling good, making sure I’m ready to pitch.
H.H: On the season you’ve held hitters to a .200 batting average and a .300 slugging. What’s in your gameplan that keeps hitters from driving the ball?
Ball: Just trying to mix my pitches and execute in all counts. Even if I’m behind in the count try to mix in all my pitches and keep them guessing. Not giving them any comfortable at-bats is huge.
H.H: How is your pitching arm feeling at this point in the season?
Ball: It’s good; I came into the season a little later than some of these guys, I should be feeling a little better than they are just from lack of innings [thrown]. I’m putting in the work and making sure I’m ready to pitch on my start day.
H.H: Looking back at the first half, what do you feel the most need to build upon?
Ball: There’s always things to improve. I think throwing more strikes and limiting walks, things like that, can be improved. Even throwing my third and fourth offerings more often and improving my overall repertoire. Being able to throw those pitches in any count and being more comfortable with that.
H.H: You currently hold an ERA of 3.73. What’s in your mentality that keeps you minimizing the offense at this rate?
Ball: I don’t even think about ERA or runs allowed, any of that stuff. I just try to make good pitches and be even tougher with guys in scoring position. My focus out there is to get the leadoff guy out, ideally it makes it easier to stay out of big innings. With guys in scoring position, if the hitter’s aggressive I just try to pitch to my strengths and not allow a comfortable at-bat and allow them to break the game wide open or drive those guys in.
RHP Matt Ball; #48
Imagine that, being a part of the organization you’ve admired since childhood. Matt Ball isn’t just living his dream, he’s appreciating every moment of it and working to further takes piece of that dream and convert it to reality. It takes a special kind of ballplayer to find appreciation in every facet of the game; a player who not only trusts the day-to-day process, but hungers for it.
In that appreciation come many things; an almost supernatural drive to better yourself, a work ethic to match, the self-awareness to realize the weight of the work ahead you, but also the determination to savor the work that’s going to come, because you know these efforts will eventually bring a realization of your potential.
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These aren’t the marks of simply a special ballplayer, these are the marks of a special person. Someone that’s willing to go over and above to accomplish success not only for themselves, but their team around them. The Angels are lucky enough to have that special person in Matt Ball within the ranks of their organization, someone who has the drive, wherewithal, and experience with knocking over challenge after challenge en route to the big stage.
It’s only a matter of time until the young prospect Matt Ball finds himself earning his ticket to ride up the Angels ranks, all the way to the way up to the big show.