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Cubs Prospect Perspective: Bryce Ball

He came over in the Joc Pederson deal.

Bryce Ball Ed McGregor/South Bend Cubs

Sometimes, all that matter are the facts. Other times, the premise of a timeline becomes really important. Not always, but sometimes. When a timeline becomes important, it’s very important. Imagine a child who loves fire trucks. More fire trucks. Bigger fire trucks. Then, suddenly, he’s over them, and he’s now into something entirely different. The birthday gift of a fire truck when that has become passé might still be enjoyed. However, the gift is past its “best by” date, and could be a hint that the old standards will always apply, when sometimes they won’t. A look at Bryce Ball’s acquisition is best looked at using a timeline.

My best timeline reference goes back a year or so, and stretches about two months further. Tom Ricketts, rightly or wrongly, gave his baseball operations people a budget. I say people, because Theo Epstein walked shortly after (likely) being given his spending number. Was that the primary reason he left? Or even a secondary reason? We don’t officially know, but if Epstein disliked the spending number enough, that might have been a factor in his resignation.

Eventually, by late December, and likely due to finances, Kyle Schwarber, Yu Darvish, and Victor Caratini were gone. Very shortly after the Darvish trade was consummated, word began to break that teams might soon have fans again in stadiums in 2021 for MLB games. With that news, and very possibly because of that news, Jed Hoyer was allowed to spend more money. Joc Pederson and others were added. The timeline is, to me, essential. The money wasn’t going to be spent until ownership believed tickets would be sold.

The season goes along, in parts bad and good, and Pederson was the first of nine Cubs traded in July. At that point, all we know is what we know then. We might assume that the executives are planning a fire sale, but at the time of the Pederson trade, all we knew is what we knew then. At that point, the Cubs top first baseman in the entire system (other than Anthony Rizzo, who would be dealt in two weeks) was Alfonso Rivas. Trading Pederson for a ranked (and by ranked, as usual, I normally mean Fangraphs-ranked) first baseman made sense.

Someone has harangued me that the Cubs should have demanded a pitcher in exchange from Atlanta. As I, curiously, wasn’t looped in by both sides on the trade negotiations, I have no idea what the next best offers were. It’s not like Pederson was fetching a Top 250 in baseball off of his April through July performance.

In Bryce Ball, the Cubs added a tall first baseman who is much better at power and minding the strike zone than running the bases or playing defense at first. He does have a really good knowledge of the zone, and more than a few strike threes rung up sure seemed outside the zone. With Ball, though, the draw is the homers. He should hit a few for the Smokies in 2022.

To loop back to the timelines idea? By the time Ball had reported to South Bend and played in a game, the Cubs had claimed Frank Schwindel on waivers, making Ball a bit less of a need. You know what you know when you know it, and no sooner.

Some of these balls might have had families.