Game Report: Robbie Ross, P, Texas Rangers

Robbie Ross is a pitcher who plays to his strengths as well as any in minor league baseball. With a career GB% in the upper-60′s, BB% in the 5% range, and only two home runs allowed all season, Ross has shown the ability to induce poor contact while keeping free passes to a minimum which serves as an excellent recipe for success for any pitcher. However, does Ross’ polish hint at a pitcher with limited upside? Maybe so, but his present ability was enough to warrant a placement in the top-25 prospects I’ve scouted in the Sally.

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Physical Projection: Ross’ listed height/weight of 5’11″, 185 lbs. seemed a bit generous as he looked at least an inch shorter and fifteen to twenty pounds heavier in person. At present, he’s fully developed with strong legs and a mid-section which is softer than ideal. As Ross continues to mature, he will need to closely monitor his weight due to his body type. An average athlete, his mechanics were easy enough to repeat. However, his release point was inconsistent and Ross had to really come across his body to work the inner half of the plate. While Ross has impressive arm whip, his lack of leg drive made me question how much of his velocity was directly tied to his arm strength and whether incorporating his legs more could lead to a couple of more ticks on the radar gun.

Mound Presence: On a night when Ross lacked the ability to command his fastball, he fought admirably when others might have made a premature exit. While he walked only one batter, the seven hits allowed over five innings was due mostly to his leaving the fastball up and over the plate. The outing fit his profile in some ways as a potential innings eater with the ability to work through rough patches.

Fastball: Ross sat 89-90 MPH for most of the outing, touching 91 a couple of times. When down in the zone, the pitch showed significant life starting just above the knees and finishing at the ankles. It also featured some glove side run which handcuffed Sand Gnats hitters repeatedly. However, Ross’ fastball became a below-average pitch belt-high or above as it flattened out considerably sitting middle-out to right-handed hitters due to his not finishing. His having to come across his body to work the inner half of the plate forced him to change his release point considerably which makes him a bit less deceptive.

Slider: Surprisingly, Ross rarely used his slider in game action opting for a fastball-changeup mix instead. The one slider velocity reading I was able to pull was 84 MPH. In the bullpen, the pitch showed some drop and significant glove side run. It’s no doubt a major reason for his astounding ground ball rate, but is it only sharp enough to induce weak contact and not swings and misses due to its sweeping nature?

Changeup: At 79-82 MPH, Ross was able to pepper the outside corner to right-handed hitters. The pitch featured significant drop with a touch of late fade to his arm side. However, he will need to clean up his delivery when throwing the pitch because he visibly lets up on the pitch at times and finishes much taller than when he throws the fastball. It has the ability to be an above average to plus offering with refinement due to its outstanding movement, but it’s just not there yet.

Admittedly, Robbie Ross was more impressive on paper than in person on the evening I was able to watch him throw. However, after seeing a number of other left-handers pass through this season, my opinion of Ross has grown and I currently regard him as the third best lefty I’ve seen behind teammate Robert Erlin and Rockies uber-prospect Tyler Matzek. Ross will never be a dominant pitcher, but he’s a high floor prospect who has three pitches which grade out as average or better which leaves him far ahead of other Sally pitchers. Of course Ross has received a promotion recently and may wind up being the rare pitcher whose numbers don’t take much of a hit due to his ground ball tendencies and the abundance of “fence swingers’ the CAL has become known for.

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