No. 20: Right-Handed Pitcher Ben Lively
By every statistical measure, Ben Lively had a tremendous season between Double-A Reading and Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Lively started the year with the Fightin’ Phils, and posted a 1.87 ERA in nine starts. In that span, he left 80.3% of runners on base and had a 0.94 WHIP. Among all pitchers with 50 or more innings pitched in the Eastern League, Lively ranked fourth in ERA and fifth in WHIP and FIP.
Lively only continued to succeed when he reached Lehigh Valley. The righty threw 117.2 innings for the IronPigs, allowing opposing hitters a .193 average as Lively held a 3.06 ERA. His control was the best since his 2014 stint in High-A in the Reds system with a 5.9% walk rate. Lively’s longest start came August 2, where he went eight shutout innings giving up just three hits and one unearned run with eight strikeouts.
The honors poured on Lively after the season concluded. The Phillies bestowed the Paul Owens Award upon Lively as the top pitcher in the system this year. In addition, MLB Pipeline named Lively one of their Phillies prospects of the year alongside outfielder Dylan Cozens.
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With Lively’s success in the minors-leagues and pitchers dropping like flies in the majors, some expected him to get a start or two late in the season. When Zach Eflin went on the disabled list in August, Matt Gelb of Philly.com speculated Lively could be a replacement. However, he didn’t get the call then, and Gelb later reported Lively would be shut down when Lehigh Valley’s season ended.
Despite all his success in the minors this year, Lively’s ceiling isn’t particularly high. None of his pitches particularly stand out, but he can throw all of them for strikes. Lively’s best pitch is his fastball, which he runs around 93-94 mph. Dan Farnsworth of Fangraphs said Lively can get through an order a couple times “as long as he continues to work off his fastball.” Farnsworth said Lively is a “useful high-floor arm.”
Right now, two spots in the Phillies 2017 rotation are locked up by Jerad Eickhoff and Vince Velasquez. In addition, the team hopes Aaron Nola and Zach Eflin can return from season-ending injuries in 2016. That would leave just one spot open, and that spot might be filled by a veteran arm, causing Lively to start the year back in Triple-A.
Although, if anything happens to one of those pitchers, Lively could be a prime candidate to take their spot. The team has to add him to the 40-man roster to protect him from this year’s Rule 5 draft, meaning it won’t be hard for him to join the team at some point in 2017.