Lively Arm at Bakersfield

There probably weren't a lot of people taking much notice when Ben Lively's name came off the board in the fourth round of last year's draft. They're paying attention now after he's been breezing through hitters in the lower level of the Cincinnati farm system. The Reds jumped him over low-A to Bakersfield to start this season and he's already showing readiness for a higher level.

Bakersfield scored early Tuesday when Ryan Wright crossed the plate on a wild pitch in the first inning. It turned out that would be all they needed in the game that they ultimately won 4-0. They did add on in the second when John Tolisano led off with a walk and later crossed on a hit by Zach Vincej. Later they put one across in each of the sixth and seventh innings when Vincej singled in Tolisano again and an RBI double by Kyle Waldrop. Vincej led the Blaze with two hits, seven other batters had one hit, and everyone reached safely at least once. Seth Mejias-Brean knew the way to first, going 1-2 with three walks.

On the mound Ben Lively continued his dominance by tossing six one-hit, shutout innings with ten strikeouts and only one walk to improve his record to 4-0 with a 0.39 ERA. Brooks Pinckard relieved him with two scoreless frames to keep his ernie below one and Carlos Gonzalez is still at zero after striking out the side in order in the ninth.

The high-altitude venues of the California League may be notorious for inflating offensive stats, but it appears that Lively did not get that memo. Actually, he's probably getting used to thin air after pitching at Billings last season after the Reds drafted him in the fourth round out of Central Florida. He made one appearance at Dayton to end last season and that was enough for Cincinnati to jump him over low-A to begin this season with the Blaze. Thus far in his young professional career he has a career ERA of 0.70 after seventeen starts and a K/BB ratio of 89/14 in 64 innings. It may be the lower minor league levels, but those are numbers of which Aroldis Chapman would be envious.

The right-hander turned 22 last month and he should be ready to continue the fast track. Actually it's reminiscent of Tony Cingrani's fast ascent to getting a call-up to the Reds after roster expansion in his second season out of Rice in 2012…..except Lively's numbers are better.

That's about the only similarity that he has with the current Reds southpaw. Lively goes to work with a fastball that tops out in the low 90's and relies heavily on a curve and changeup. To see a finesse pitcher so successful in the thin air that limits movement on pitches makes one excited to think what he might do closer to sea level. At the rate Lively is going that should happen sooner rather than later.

It's still early, but it appears Cincinnati got first-round talent with a fourth round selection. He'll eventually run into some challenges as he moves up the ladder, but his success thus far indicates that he's chomping at the bit to give it a shot. Until then he'll try to keep his numbers at their current level with the Blaze (which would not be easy for anyone) while awaiting the call. Who knows, if he continues his success against AA hitters later this year he might match the Cingrani schedule after all.

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