Replicating his KBO success is essential if Ben Lively hopes to land in Reds bullpen

Kansas City Royals relief pitcher Ben Lively (48) pitches.
Kansas City Royals relief pitcher Ben Lively (48) pitches. / Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

A former draft pick of the Cincinnati Reds, Ben Lively signed a minor-league pact to rejoin his former team this spring. The Reds signed Lively to a minor-league contract with an invite to spring training, and if the 29-year-old can replicate his performance from his time in the KBO, there's a chance he can land spot in the Reds bullpen.

Lively spent two years in the Cincinnati farm system before being dealt to the Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for outfielder Marlon Byrd. During his time in the Reds organization, Lively appeared in 39 games between Billings, Dayton, Bakersfield, and Pensacola.

Lively was quite impressive in his first year with the Reds organization. Lively appeared in 13 games and posted a 0.88 ERA and punch out 56 batters in 41 innings of relief. His second season saw Lively go 13-7 in 26 starts and posted a 3.04 ERA.

Ben Lively has an outside shot to make the Reds bullpen.

After the trade to Philadelphia, Ben Lively made his major league debut in June of 2017 for the Phillies. Lively went 4-7 in 15 starts with a 4.26 ERA in 88.2 innings of work. Lively never had quite the success with the Phillies organization that he did with Cincinnati.

Lively never saw the strikeout success with the Phillies that he did with the Reds. In his first taste of major league action, Lively posted just a 14.0% strikeout-rate and was designated for assignment five games into his 2018 campaign in the City of Brotherly Love. Lively was picked up by the Kansas City Royals and posted a 1.35 ERA in just 6.2 innings.

Ben Lively appeared to regain some measure of success over the last two seasons while pitching in the Korean Baseball Organization. His first year in the KBO resulted in modest success. Lively went 7-7 in 21 starts but did post a 55.9% ground ball rate.

Last season, however, Lively started six games and posted a remarkable 10.26 K/9 and 27.1% strikeout-rate. Both of those stats, while a small sample size (33.1 IP), the increase in punch outs will certainly help Lively's cause in his search to make a name for himself in the Cincinnati bullpen.

The Reds bullpen is one of the more underwhelming aspects of the 2022 team. Having been one of the worst relief units in 2021, Cincinnati will enter the upcoming season without their best reliever (Tejay Antone) and have yet to make any real additions via free agency.

The Cincinnati Reds are notoriously stingy when it comes to spending, but a player like Lively has the goods to make a real run at the Opening Day roster if he can channel that same type of production he displayed the past two years in the KBO.

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The Reds front office has been looking for somebody to fill the roles vacated by Raisel Iglesias and Archie Bradley. Ben Lively isn't the answer, but perhaps his ability to eat innings on the front side will provide those late-inning relievers with more rest.