This article is part of our House of Shlain series.
I had the pleasure of observing Padres right-handed pitching prospect Joe Ross throw a bullpen session last week in Lansing. Days later, Ross ripped off his best outing of the season as he allowed one hit and no walks in seven innings while striking out five against Dayton. There was very little hard contact against Ross in that start as he retired 14 batters on groundouts.
First, here is video of Ross' delivery from the bullpen session he threw last week:
Here's Ross on what he was working on in the bullpen, what he's taken from having an older brother in the majors, and what he's learned from a rough first season in professional baseball.
On his bullpen session: "Working a lot on the fastball. Staying on top and with the two-seam not trying to make it run and just let it do what it does. Keeping the ball down in the zone and a little bit below. The strike zone is where it's going to be, but for pitchers you have to try to hit spots and not just in the strike zone.
"You saw I only threw fastballs and changeups trying to hit spots and make my changeups look as similar to the fastballs as possible and stay in that same area of the zone."
On his slider: "The slider has kind of always been there, but for me recently it's just been like all pitches and not trying to make it move a certain way. Just throw it the way you throw it. In game situations either I'm throwing it for a strike, usually on the outside corner and down, or I'm gonna bounce it with two strikes. Those are the two things I really work on, at least for me in the bullpen."
On what he takes from his brother, MLB pitcher Tyson Ross: "The most important thing I've seen and taken from him is his work ethic and not just in season, but in the offseason. I got to see that from when I was still in high school, I got to see that on a day-to-day basis.
Especially this last offseason, we lived together and it was unbelievable how every day I would ask him what he's doing and he would have a full list of things that pretty much all had to do with either working out or what he was focused on specifically to try and get better that offseason."
On last year: "It was tough just because of the injury and the injury itself is what I kind of have to learn from. There are things you are supposed to do to keep your body and stay away from injuries and I learned how important those things are. When you're feeling good you might not take it 100 percent seriously, but to do those things all the time and mixed with the workouts and stuff like that gets you ready for the season and can keep you healthy through the season. Everybody gets injured at some point. Nobody's perfect, especially pitching. If you can stay healthy through the year, that's the biggest thing. If I can stay healthy all year this year then I'll be happy with how I've played.
Going down to Arizona, then going to short-season and playing there, and then coming back (to the Midwest League) for the playoffs was all just a big learning experience for me in my first full year."
Ross, who I ranked 57th in our May update of the Top 200 prospects list, displays all of the tools necessary to move up in the ranks. Ross is generally in the 90-95 mph range with his fastball and can reach back for more. He's long and has an easy delivery allowing for clean arm action. As long as Ross is in the Midwest League, where he has a 3.05 ERA and 47:17 K:BB in 59.2 innings, his main focus will be commanding his fastball. Once he really has that he'll be able to master his secondary pitches, both of which flash plus potential. Ross seems to be getting closer to that point with every outing.
Midwest League Notes:
- I recently saw Zach Eflin pitch in a real live professional baseball game. I was impressed with Eflin's velocity as his fastball is already consistently in the low-90s and he's just 19 years old. It's clear that he has both a lot of potential and a long way to go before he's there. Eflin was all over the place with his delivery at times and his inconsistent mechanics led to baserunners stealing at will. Despite the velocity he was slow getting the ball to home plate and generally lacked poise. He's still very young and projectable, but it's going to take him some time.
- Catcher Santiago Nessy is a name a lot of non-Blue Jays fans might not be aware of quite yet. Nessy, 20, is just now getting his first taste of a full season in professional baseball with Lansing. He's raw and projectable on both sides of the ball. Nessy has big raw power at the plate and defensive tools behind it. His arm threw out a third of runners attempting to steal on him in the Northwest League last season. He's one to watch for a breakout.