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Friday, June 9, 2017

2017 FANTASY BASEBALL STATUS REPORT: THE CURIOUS CASE OF JOE ROSS

Any time any pitcher in fantasy baseball engineers a double-digit K game, attention immediately descends upon that particular player.  Thus Washington Nationals starter Joe Ross was that guy Thursday night when he struck out 12 Baltimore Orioles in 7.1 innings of one-run ball and in the process, re-ignited debate about whether he can be depended on in fantasy baseball circles.  Even after the big starting, Ross' ERA still sits at a very ugly 6.16 and WHIP at 1.45.  Having battled too many injuries to list the last season-plus, Ross' stock is as volatile as it gets.  So as always let's dig in a bit deeper here to find out the direction he may be headed.

The first thing that needs to be mentioned is that Ross is still a pup at 24 and he as a 2011 first-round pick by the San Diego Padres (25th overall) which speaks to the pedigree and natural talent.  Ross certainly seemed like a star in the making when he debuted in 2015 by posting a 3.64 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, and 69 K's in 76.2 innings.  Alas Ross only was able to put forth 105 innings in what was supposed to be another movement upward in his development in 2016, with inconsistent results as well (3.64 ERA, 1.30 WHIP) and those injuries continued to flare this spring and at the start of 2017 as well.  Having come off the DL towards the end of May, Ross has been the epitome of inconsistent in throwing two gems but also engineering two absolute clunkers.  Which brings us to present time to see what is really at work here.

When looking at the advanced numbers, a few things stand out.  The first is that Ross' 9.71 K/9 rate is quite swell and shows how his swing-and-miss stuff is in fine working order.  Also Ross' 3.49 XFIP show that he is in fact pitching better than his surface numbers indicate.  The two things that are troubling though are an insane 9 home runs in 38 innings and velocity that is down from his 2015 debut.  Now Ross is still missing bats and making it work with what he has which makes that concern less of a worry but the home runs need to be addressed.  We don't need to tell you how a home run tendency can ruin any one start; with one or two pitches misplaced that go over the fence greatly distorting an otherwise nice outing.  However the 2.13 HR/9 mark is also in outlier territory as Ross put forth 0.82 and 0.77 marks his first two years in the majors which are fine ratios indeed.  If Ross can get that even somewhat under control, he would instantly transform to a top-end pitcher like his stuff has always hinted at.  Thus grabbing Ross where available is the way to go here as his stuff is impressive and 12-K games like he had on Thursday don't grow on trees.  Look past the surface ERA and buy into the talent.


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