Way, way, way back in the day, the good folks in the Red Reporter blogosphere combined to place RHP Ben Lively at #10 in their Community Prospect Rankings, noting the former 4th round pick of the Cincinnati Reds boasted a four-pitch arsenal that could find him in the middle of the team’s rotation at some point.
While the route to that possibility has been much more circuitous than we ever could have envisioned some eight years ago, the news of the day on Thursday again opened that possibility. The Reds themselves announced on Twitter that they’ve signed Lively, now 29, to a minor league deal with an invite to spring training (should it ever commence).
The #Reds have signed RHP Ben Lively to a minor league contract with an invitation to major league spring training.— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) January 6, 2022
Lively was originally a 4th-round pick by the Reds out of UCF in 2013 before being traded to the Phillies in exchange for OF Marlon Byrd after the 2014 season. pic.twitter.com/n9CenWID04
Lively was promptly traded to the Philadelphia Phillies on New Year’s Day 2015 for OF Marlon Byrd in a much-panned trade, so we were never given the opportunity to see how he’d develop as part of the Reds at the big league level. He eventually reached the bigs with the Phillies in a promising enough 2017 debut, pitching to a 101 ERA+ in 15 GS across 88.2 IP, though that would be both the peak of his time within the Philadelphia organization and in MLB altogether.
He was eventually plucked off waivers by the Kansas City Royals in 2018, and after brief cameos in 2018 and 2019 (just 7.2 IP combined), he took his talents to the KBO with the Samsung Lions for parts of three seasons. In that time, he pitched to a 4.14 ERA in 202.1 IP, all of which came again as a starter after his time in Kansas City had seen him move to a relief role.
Lively once found a way to pitch in rather dominant fashion for the Reds old A+ affiliate in Bakersfield, California, doing so in a home stadium that featured a CF fence that was approximately nine feet behind 2B. It was that kind of performance that had him rated so highly among the RR community, and his 3.29 ERA in 339 IP at the AAA level in all organizations suggests he’s long had the ability to get batters out at a decent clip. He’s never been known to have obliterating stuff, though he’s still found ways to strike batters out at a somewhat proficient rate, sporting an 8.3 K/9 in over 1300 IP as a professional at all stops.
Ideally, he’s the exact kind of depth signing you’d love to see a team make, one who could flash prime form in the right scenario and help out up and down the staff when the opportunity arises. That said, with the Reds aversion to spending any sort of money this winter, the gift to Chicago of Wade Miley, and the continuing expectation that Sonny Gray will be on the move, Lively’s walking into a pretty interesting chance to get some legitimate run in 2022 with the organization that originally drafted him. And given that the likes of Eric Thames, Josh Lindblom, and Chris Flexen (among others) have made the MLB-to-KBO-to-MLB journey to reasonable late-career success, it wouldn’t be too outlandish to think that Lively might well have evolved into a plenty serviceable pitcher for the Reds.
If they ever get around to playing Major League Baseball this year, of course.