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Prospect Note: Ben Lively, RHP, Cincinnati Reds

Ben Lively
Ben Lively
Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

Cincinnati Reds prospect Ben Lively dominated the High-A California League earlier this year: he made 13 starts for Bakersfield, posting a 10-1 record, 2.28 ERA, 3.03 FIP, and a 95/16 K/BB in 79 innings, allowing 57 hits. He led the league in strikeouts and WHIP and ranks second in ERA.

With little left to prove at that level, Lively was promoted to Double-A Pensacola (his home town) last week. He made his first start in front of his friends and neighbors on June 23rd and ran into some command problems, walking five in 3.2 innings, giving up three hits and three runs. The good news was that he also fanned eight. He made his second start this past Saturday and was more effective, throwing 5.2 shutout innings on three hits and three walks, fanning five.

I think the key takeaway here is that he's maintaining a strong strikeout rate, fanning 13 in 9.2 innings this far. The walks have spiked: he's already walked eight compared to only 16 during his entire Cal League tenure. You often see this when a pitcher is making the transition to Double-A, as more advanced hitters are less likely to chase unhittable pitches. Generally speaking though, if a pitcher maintains a strong strikeout rate he has a good chance to adjust, even if the walks increase in the short run.

Lively has dealt with failure and shown the ability to make needed adjustments before. He's gave up 34 passes in 57 innings as a college freshman for the University of Central Florida in 2011 (5.37 BB/9), reduced that somewhat to 45/81 (5.0) in '12, then took a huge step forward in '13 (28 walks in 106 innings, 2.38 BB/9). That got him drafted in the fourth round last year. He has a 90-95 fastball along with a full curve/slider/changeup arsenal, and the stuff seems good enough for him to succeed as a solid starter once he figures out his location against better hitters.