Name: Robbie Ross
Position: Starting Pitcher
DOB: June 24, 1989
Acquired: 2008 Amateur Draft, 2nd round
After the Texas Rangers selected Robbie Ross in the second round of the 2008 MLB Draft, the club was able to steer the Lexington, Ky., native away from his commitment to the University of Kentucky by signing him for a $1.575 million bonus.
The bonus, which was the highest of any second-round pick that year, matched the slot-level money given to 18th overall pick Ike Davis of the New York Mets.
Because he didn't sign until the mid-August deadline, Ross didn't make his official pro debut until June '09, when he joined the short-season Spokane Indians.
Ross got his career off to an excellent start, posting a 2.66 earned-run average over 15 starts. In 74.1 innings, he walked only 17, struck out 76, and his plus fastball helped him notch over 3.2 groundouts per flyout.
The 5-foot-11, 185-pound lefty progressed to Single-A Hickory at the beginning of last season. While it took a few starts for Ross to get his feet under him, he eventually adjusted to the league. On the whole, he logged a 2.59 ERA in 94 innings. He yielded 89 hits, walked 20, and struck out 62.
The Rangers gave the young prospect a mid-July promotion to High-A Bakersfield last summer. He was dominant at times––posting a pair of seven-inning gems––but got knocked around at others. Ross continued to throw strikes (17 walks, 49 strikeouts in 52 innings) and induce ground balls (3.2 GO/AO). But he also surrendered 67 hits in those 52 frames.
Because the Double-A Frisco rotation was largely depleted by trades last season, Ross got the opportunity to join the RoughRiders for the Texas League playoffs. The prospect held his own through the first three innings of his lone postseason start but was chased in the fourth after allowing the first five hitters to reach base.
Ross earns high marks for his work ethic and willingness to attack hitters with his three-pitch arsenal––likely a primary factor in his selection for the playoff promotion.
The 21-year-old (he turns 22 in late-June) figures to get an extended look with Frisco at some point during the 2011 campaign.
Also See: Ross looking for patience (March 21, 2010)
Top Prospects, Top Tools (January 14, 2011)
Mark Anderson's Top 20 Rangers Prospects (February 14, 2011)
Repertoire: Fastball, Slider, Changeup.
Fastball: Attacking hitters from a low three-quarters delivery out of his 5-foot-11 frame, Ross has a fastball that is an all-around plus pitch. During starts last season, he sat mostly in the 88-92 mph range but ran it up to 93-94 at times. While Ross can flash above-average velocity, his fastball plays up even more due to the late movement that includes both cutting action and armside run. He hides the ball well and gets good deception out of a funky delivery.
The mixture of velocity, life, and deception makes the ball difficult for hitters to square up when he commands it low in the zone. It also helped him induce over 2.8 groundouts per flyout between the Low- and High-A levels last season. Walks aren't an issue (approx. 6% walk rate in 2010), and both his control and command project as plus. But his within-the-zone command still needs some refinement, as he can elevate his pitches a bit too often.
Other Pitches: Ross flashes an 82-83 mph slider that is already close to being a 60-grade (plus) offering. The pitch plays off his fastball well, with plenty of late bite and tilt. He has a tendency to get around the slider and must stay on top of it consistently in order to get the sharp break. Though his low-80s changeup has some fading action and shows average potential at times, he struggles to command it and it's currently underdeveloped.
Projection: The former second-round pick has a chance to stick as a starting pitcher, where he has a mid-rotation ceiling and most likely slots as a number four or five guy. In order to do so, he'll need to improve his changeup and stay on top of all three pitches with more consistency (allowing him to work down in the zone with maximum sharpness). But many–-if not most––scouts seem to view the southpaw as a potential setup man, where he could flash plus velocity with life and an above-average slider. Regardless of his future role, the Rangers are likely to continue developing Ross as a starting pitcher for at least the next season.
2011 Outlook: The 21-year-old split last season between the Single- and High-A levels before earning a promotion to Double-A Frisco for the Texas League playoffs. Although Ross didn't quite master the High-A level last season––in fact, he was quite inconsistent––he figures to enter camp in competition for a Double-A rotation spot. Even if Ross opens the year with Myrtle Beach, he should get an opportunity to reach Frisco by the All-Star break.
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