Washington Nationals Editorial: What Are The Expectations For Joe Ross?


Heading into his first spring training, what should the expectations be for Joe Ross in 2016?

With the Super Bowl now over, the national sports focus now shifts over to baseball and spring training. Pitchers and catchers for the Washington Nationals will begin a week from Thursday (February 18). One of the focuses this spring for the Nats is at the back end of their rotation. For one player, it will be their first Major League spring training with the big league club and that’s Joe Ross.

Ross, who will be 23 in May, has pitched in spring training games before. In 2014, he appeared in three spring games for the San Diego Padres (0-1, 7.50 ERA) Last year, Ross began the year in double-A, pitching with the Harrisburg Senators before being called up in June to make his Major League debut.

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In 16 games (13 starts) with the Nats last season, the right-hander went 5-5 with a 3.64 ERA (3.42 FIP) in 76.2 innings. When he first was called up, Ross showed pinpoint control and did not give up many free passes. He had 23 strikeouts in his first three outings, including a 11-strikeout performance in his third start against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

However, as the season went along, Ross’ control started to dissipate. In his final 11 appearances of the season, he had three games of three walks or more, including a six walk outing against the St. Louis Cardinals back on September 1.

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Heading into 2016, Ross is likely going to be the number five pitcher in the Nats’ staring rotation. However, with the minor league signing of Bronson Arroyo, it puts more doubt in whether or not Ross is going to break camp with the team. If Arroyo has a good spring and Ross struggles, I wouldn’t be surprised if Ross at least started the 2016 season with the Syracuse Chiefs at triple-A.

Counting his minor league appearances last season, Ross threw a total of 152.2 innings. While I think that number will definitely be higher this year if Ross stays healthy, it wouldn’t be that bad of an idea to start Ross at Syracuse to limit his innings early in the year. Even if that were the case, it would be interesting to see if both Ross and top prospect Lucas Giolito finish this season in DC.

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With that being said, I expect Ross to have a good season in 2016. He showed good poise with the Nationals last season and was third on the staff in ERA+ (111) behind Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg. He won’t have the expectations of Scherzer and Strasburg, but he has the capabilities of being a ten win pitcher if he stays healthy. Fangraphs projects Ross to go 8-8 this season with a 1.6 WAR (fourth on the staff). If he can at least accomplish that, I think the Nationals would be happy with Ross’ progression in year two of his Major League career.