Joe Ross: Checking in on the Nationals’ newly-acquired No. 5 prospect

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Feb 21, 2014; Peoria, AZ, USA; San Diego Padres starting pitcher Joe Ross (66) poses for a photo during photo day at Peoria Sports Complex. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

One of the benefits of the offseason is that it gives us the opportunity to reflect on last season and look forward to next year and beyond – a future that will undoubtedly be shaped not only by the team’s current big league stars, but also by the youngsters that are working their way up the minor league ladder.

Over the next several weeks, we will be counting down the Nationals’ Top-10 prospects (as ranked by MLB.com) and breaking down what they have accomplished so far in their young professional careers. We will also predict if and when they will be ready to contribute at the big league level and where we expect to see them in 2015.

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Some of these names are well-known throughout the baseball world, while others are players that you may never have heard of before. Regardless of how prominent these players are in the ever-evolving world of the game’s rising stars, all of them will have an impact on the future of the Nationals and it’s important to monitor their progress as they continue on their path to the big leagues.

Last week, we continued our series with outfielder Brian Goodwin and first baseman Matt Skole, the team’s No. 7 and No. 6 prospects, respectively. Today we will continue with No. 5 prospect Joe Ross, a right-handed pitcher whom the Nationals acquired from the Padres as part of this week’s 11-player, three team trade that sent the team’s former No. 5 prospect, Steven Souza Jr., to the Rays.

The Padres drafted Ross with the 25th overall pick in the 2011 First-Year Player draft. The right-hander struggled during his first few years in the minors but really made strides in 2014, earning a promotion to Double-A San Antonio.

In 2014, the best season of his professional career, Ross went 10-6 with a 3.92 ERA and a career-high 106 strikeouts over 121 2/3 innings with Class A Fort Wayne and San Antonio.

The right-hander was rewarded for his great season in the Single-A California League, being named a California League All-Star.

Ross, 21, relies on a mid-90’s fastball and a power slider. The right-hander’s 6-foot-4 frame allows him to throw his fastball at a downhill angle and induce plenty of ground balls. If Ross can develop his changeup into a third above-average pitch, he should develop into a solid big league starter.

Ross is probably still a couple of years away from making an impact at the big league level, but he’s definitely someone to keep an eye on. Check back here later this week as we continue our Nationals top-10 prospects countdown with No.4, right-hander Erick Fedde.

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