After being drafted in the 4th round in 2013, Ben Lively thoroughly annihilated his competition over 12 starts in the Pioneer League and a one-start cameo in Dayton. When the organization started Lively at High-A Bakersfield, in the extremely hitter-friendly California League, the Reds’ brass probably didn’t expect him to improve upon his sensational 2013 campaign. Despite the immense challenge, the lanky 22-year old made a seamless transition, as he continued his dominant work on the mound in 2014.

Lively made his first start on April 6th against the Modesto Nuts, and he earned the elusive first win of his professional career. He allowed one run on one hit (a home run) over six innings, while striking out seven without issuing a walk. Unfortunately for the California League, Lively was just getting warmed up. The home run surrendered in his first start would be the only run Lively would allow in April. He finished the month with a perfect 5-0 record, a miniscule 0.31 ERA and a 0.48 WHIP over 29.0 innings. His peripherals were outstanding to say the least, as he punched out an amazing 40.8% of batters faced, while walking only 1%.

Although his scoreless streak would end during his final inning of his first start in May, Lively’s torrid pace did not slow down much. Over his first four starts in May, he went 2-1 with a 1.35 ERA and a 25/6 K/BB ratio in 26.2 innings. During his final two starts in May, the right-hander experienced some control problems for the first time in 2014, as he walked six batters in 11.1 innings. Despite the confirmation, that Lively is indeed human, he finished the month with superb numbers again, going 3-1 with a 2.37 ERA, and a 39/12 K/BB ratio over 38.0 innings.

Lively was banged around in his only two starts for the Blaze in June, as he posted a 6.75 ERA, in large part due to serving up 4 bombs in 12 innings. Despite the ugly ERA, Lively posted a strong 16/3 K/BB ratio and won both starts. His spectacular first half earned him the start in the California League vs. Carolina League All-Star Game, where he fanned two over two hitless innings. This would be his last start at the High-A level, as Lively was promoted to AA to pitch in his hometown of Pensacola, Fla., on June 18th. After being promoted, he would make two more starts in the month of June, with strong results. Lively posted a solid 2.89 ERA and struck out an impressive 13 batters over 9.1 innings, but unfortunately the control problems popped up again, as he walked eight batters and hit another one during the two starts.

As the calendar turned to July, the control problems persisted for Lively, but he continued to post strong overall numbers on the mound. He struggled over his first four starts of the month, going 0-3 with a 4.22 ERA in 21.1 innings. Despite striking out an impressive 27 over this period, he walked an alarming 17 batters, including a career-high seven vs. the Mobile BayBears on July 21st, which greatly contributed to the three losses. Lively finished the month strong, as he compiled 2.70 ERA with an 11/4 K/BB ratio over his final two starts.

The final month of the season may have seen the young righty hit “the wall” of his first full professional season. Lively threw 28.0 innings with a pedestrian 4.50 ERA over five starts. Although his control improved from July (2.25 BB/9), he posted the lowest strikeout rate of his career (8.0 K/9). Despite the relatively average month on the mound, Lively did mash his first professional home run in Jacksonville on August 19th, which is a special moment for any pitcher.

Overview:

Lively entered the 2014 season with high expectations after an outstanding debut season with Billings and Dayton. His first full season can be classified as nothing but a tremendous success, as he made a mockery of the California League for 2.5 months and finished the year very solidly in AA. Lively even had a video-game like 30.1 scoreless innings streak, early in the season, which saw him punch out 44 batters and walk only two. His incredible work on the mound earned him the Sheldon “Chief” Bender Award as the Reds Minor League Player of the Year.

Season Stats

 

Team W L ERA SV IP H HR BB K WHIP K/BB
Total 13 7 3.04 0 151.0 117 13 52 171 1.12 3.29
Bakersfield 10 1 2.28 0 79.0 57 6 16 95 0.92 5.94
Pensacola 3 6 3.88 0 72.0 60 7 36 76 1.33 2.11

To view more 2014 Season Review articles, click here.

About The Author

Reds fan since birth, but currently live in Atlanta, GA. I have no offseason due to the Reds, Bengals, and UC basketball.

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