Like many teams the San Diego Padres spent heavily on their 2011 draft class, the last one before a new CBA brought about restrictions on how much each team could spend on their drafts. This worked out fairly well since 2011 was also a strong draft class, especially when it came to arms. This allowed the Padres to nab Joe Ross with the 25th pick and lure him away from a UCLA commitment for $2.75 million. The younger brother of former Oakland Athletic and now Padre, Tyson, Joe features an electric arm and the chance to be a top of the rotation starter.
There's not much to go on statistically, with Ross having only thrown 55.2 innings over the last two seasons. He got a late start in 2011, only throwing one inning. He logging the remaining 54.2 in 2012 after missing four weeks with houlder inflamation. While shoulders are always concerning, more than elbows for me, I believe the Padres were acting with an abundance of caution when they held him out for that long. The stats that we do have aren't all that enticing either, as Ross got hit hard in Lo-A, registering 6.26 ERA and a 1.61 WHIP in 27.1 IP. On the other hand, he did register a strikeout rate of 9 per 9 innings and a walk rate of 3.5 per 9. But when we're talking about Lo-A players who are off of top 100 lists, it's going to be based on more than numbers. In fact, it's going to be based almost entirely on the scouting reports we have on Ross so far.
To that end, let's look at what Ross has in his arsenal. He impresses with a low-to-mid 90s fastball that can touch as high as 96 and features late movement. Unlike his brother, Joe has fundamentally sound mechanics that he repeats well. Ross is long and lean and could add velocity if he continues to fill out. He uses his height to get good extension and plane on his pitches, coming over the top at a little more than a 3/4 delivery. Ross has made big strides with his slider since draft time, and it arrives in the low 80s with sharp break. It's a swing and miss pitch that he shows plenty of confidence in. His change up lags behind and often comes in too firm, but it shows promise. Ross has the chance for three average or better pitches and has enough upside to be a high-2 pitcher. It's a lofty ceiling but he has the tools to reach it.
Ross is extremely raw at the moment and is lightyears away from the ceiling mentioned above. That said, I'm a huge fan of his and the injury in 2012 has allowed his stock to dip lower than it should have. I think Ross is a top 50 prospect by the time 2013 is over, so if you can buy now, before he gets too much hype early on this season, it should pay off quite nicely.