by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
There are certain players that their team appears unwilling to give an opportunity. One instance is the Nationals’ and Joe Ross, as there consistently appears to be chatter that Washington is looking for an alternative in the rotation. First there was the Chris Sale rumors (though those were justifiable)… Now there’s talk about Ross’ own brother, Tyson, being on the team’s radar…
It seems odd, considering the skillset that Joe Ross brings to the table, that the Nationals don’t want to see what he can do. Injuries were the big issue last season, limiting him to 105.0 innings of work, but when he’s been on the mound over the past two years (181.2 IP) there’s been little question about his upside:
His 8.03 K/9 may not stand out, but he does own an impressive 11.4% SwStr% and 33.0% O-Swing%. Those numbers imply a much greater mark, and his slider is a clear wipeout pitch. Just look at the usage // Whiff% over the past two seasons:
So he’s not afraid to throw it, and when he does opponents have a hard time making contact. That certainly gives the impression that a strikeout per inning could be in his future.
He owns a 2.48 BB/9 in the Majors and 2.6 BB/9 in the minors. At this point is there any reason to think that he can’t continue throwing strikes?
Armed with a good sinker, Ross has generated a 45.5% groundball rate in the Majors. While it’s not a blow away mark, it was higher in ’15 (49.8%) and he has shown more potential while coming up through the minors (GO/AO):
All he needs to do is reach his ’15 mark and it’s more than enough (which was a 1.29 GO/AO) given the other skills.
You would think this type of profile would make Washington desperate to fit him into the rotation, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. As a two-pitch pitcher, could the team view him more as a reliever moving forward? Perhaps, and at this point there are significant questions at the back of the team’s bullpen. Pitching in short bursts his velocity would likely play up, and with a wipeout pitch already in his arsenal it’s a potentially nasty combination.
Could they be concerned with his ability to stay healthy in general? Another fair question for a pitcher who has never thrown over 150 innings in a season (and is similar to the one facing the Reds and Raisel Iglesias).
You can never have enough pitching, so bringing in depth makes sense, but you also have to wonder if Washington ultimately views Ross as a potential answer to their backend bullpen woes (and seeing him rise to closer is not unthinkable). Either way he’s worth keeping a close eye on.
Sources – Fangraphs, MILB.com, Brooks Baseball
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