Is Joe Ross Developing Or Has The Time Come To Give Up Hope?

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

There was a time that the Nationals’ Joe Ross was viewed as a high upside starter.  However health concerns have helped to deflate the enthusiasm, and his performance in his first two spring outings haven’t helped things.  It’s not that he’s getting tattooed, allowing 2 ER on 4 H and 1 BB over 4.2 innings.  He also has 4 K, so why have things changed?


There was a time that Ross appeared primed to be a groundball inducer, with a 1.34 GO/AO over his minor league career.  In 2015 he generated a 49.8% groundball rate in the Majors, increasing the excitement.  However things have turned dramatically.

Last season in 105.0 innings in the Majors he posted a 42.6% groundball rate.  In his small sample this spring things have been even worse, with a 0.43 GO/AO and having allowed a pair of home runs in his most recent outing.  While he does bring strong control and the ability to miss bats, neither are enough to create an elite starting pitcher without the groundball rate.


There was always a concern that he was more of a two pitch pitcher, significantly leaning on his fastball (52.2%) and slider (39.0%).  That always set him up as a potential reliever, with closer upside.

It’s something that Ross is cognizant of and that he wants to correct.  Jorge Castillo of The Washington Post had this quote from Ross from the beginning of Spring Training (click here for the full article):

“That’s probably the biggest thing I’m going to work on throughout the spring,” Ross said. “I’m going to try to get with Max [Scherzer] and [Stephen Strasburg], I think, because obviously their change-ups are pretty phenomenal. But just trying to stick with them and pick up a few things every day. And honestly, just keep throwing it. I can talk about it as much as I want, but until I actually throw it and start getting on the mound with it, nothing much is going to change.”


Pitchers work on things in the spring, so you don’t want to read too much into the results.  Could he be working on his changeup, leading to the lack of groundballs?  It’s possible, and something that we’ll continue to monitor.  With Austin Voth and Erik Fedde working their way up the ranks it’s still possible Ross is ultimately ticketed for the bullpen.  That said, if he develops his changeup into a weapon it’s a move that won’t be needed.  Time will tell, and for now he remains a high upside starter to monitor closely as Opening Day nears.

Sources – Fangraphs, Washington Post

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Make sure to check out our 2017 Rankings:

Standard League
OBP League
First Base01/16/1703/07/17
Second Base03/22/1703/09/17
Third Base02/06/1703/12/17
Outfield#1-20 |03/16/17

#21-40 |03/16/17
Starting Pitcher#1-20 |02/27/17

#21-40 |03/02/17
Relief Pitcher01/02/17--


  1. Sawyer says:

    So the conclusion is that there is no conclusion? I’m confused.

    • Rotoprofessor says:

      The conclusion was he’s well worth drafting as a late round flier and has the upside. If he masters his changeup he has the upside of a Top 30 starter. If he doesn’t, he could still be ticketed for the bullpen. It’s a wait and see

  2. Sawyer says:

    Thanks, that helps. My staff is decimated after losing Fernandez and Reyes, and having Greinke take such a huge step back. I am going to need some players like Ross to step it up.

    • Rotoprofessor says:

      If you are really digging deep, check out our write up on the Rockies’ Antonio Senzatela this morning on the Prospects page. He is flying severely under-the-radar, but has the potential

  3. Sawyer says:

    Ah, a Rockies pitcher? I’ll take a look, but I admittedly am very biased against Rockies pitchers.

    I’ve got my Rockies hitter to pull me through though. I am expecting a huge year from Desmond. A healthy Desmond will help me make up for some of my pitching woes.

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