Joe Ross finished his 2014 season with the Double-A San Antonio Missions in the San Diego Padres system with a lackluster 2014 in the Minors finishing with a 3.92 ERA. When the Tampa Bay Rays, Padres and Nationals crafted a 3 team trade on December 19th of 2014, it was Wil Myers and Steven Souza and the PTBNL (Player To Be Named Later aka Trea Turner) who were the centerpieces of the trade.
Joe Ross was part of the add-ons to that trade that Rizzo requested in the deal. Joe Ross being the younger brother of Tyson Ross would begin the season in 2015 in Double-A Harrisburg and rise meteorically to the Majors with a debut June 6, 2015 which was 2 weeks after his 22nd birthday. In attendance at his debut were not only Joe’s parents, but his brother Tyson got a 1 day pass from the Padres to make the trip to watch his little brother.
Ross would complete June going 2-1 with a 2.66 ERA and was sent back to the Minors and got a call-up at the end of July and wasn’t as sharp but still good. August had a full month of starts with some good and some not so good as he got torched on the road in LA and San Francisco.
Ross would finish his MLB rookie season with a 3.64 ERA which was better than his previous year in the Minors with the Padres. That’s hard to do so how did he improve so much? Simply put, all he needed was some mechanical tweaks and he turned his slider into a deadly weapon. Armed with a good sinker and a good slider, Ross changed his grip slightly to throw another slider a few MPH slower with different movement. His effectiveness was excellent as he paired his “cool” demeanor with an attack style of pitching. After each game he would pick the minds of his teammates as well as his postgame session with his older brother Tyson who would help him analyze his performance. His maturity was beyond his 22 years of age.
Mike Rizzo had this to say about Ross, “He’s got good stuff to go along with good command and doesn’t get rattled very easily and is not afraid to get Major League hitters out on the white part of the plate which is a key to the progression of going from the Minor Leagues to the Major Leagues. He’s been great for us. I wouldn’t say he’s exceeded our expectations [as we had high expectations]. Our scouts when we scouted him before we had him in the organization, he was a priority type of acquire for the club and he’s really pitched as well as any of our Minor League pitchers and prospects have.”
Ross acknowledged that fatigue set in as he got into late August. As he approached his total of 152 2/3 innings in 2015 combined in Double-A and Triple-A and in the Majors, Ross knew he was going to be shutdown by Rizzo. That was more than 30 innings above his previous high in innings that he actually set in 2013 at 122 1/3. Ross felt the lack of stamina and drive he was getting in his legs. His velo dropped a little and Rizzo knew it was time to shut him down and send him to the bullpen.
This winter, Joe Ross has been working out with fellow San Diego teammate Stephen Strasburg along with Joe’s brother Tyson. Joe has been working those legs hard in workouts which he feels is a key to make it through the entire 2016 season without any fatigue. Using the Rizzo 20-25% increase year over year for young pitchers, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Ross reach 180 innings in 2016 then get sent to the bullpen once again.
Most impressive was that 1.109 WHIP as Ross was stingy with the walks and he had that impressive 8.1 K/9. His 1:3.29 BB/K ratio should only get better as Ross develops his changeup which is an evolving pitch for him that he hasn’t mastered yet.