Prospect Profile: Tyson Ross
Tyson Ross unexpectedly earned a spot in the Oakland Athletics bullpen this spring, and is off to a good start so far. Let's review his status as a prospect.
Ross was a second round pick from the University of California in 2008. He was considered a first round candidate at one point due to his hard sinking fastball and effective slider, but fell a round due to an erratic junior season (7-4, 4.25 with a 66/33 K/BB in 78 innings) along with concerns about control issues, health, and durability. He made four starts in the Class A Midwest League after signing, posting a 4.66 ERA with a 16/5 K/BB in 19 innings for Kane County. I gave him a conservative Grade C+ in the 2009 book, noting his long-term potential but wanting to get more data from higher levels, and concerned that he might have injury problems due to his mechanics.
Ross began '09 with Stockton in the California League, going 5-6, 4.17 with an 82/33 K/BB in 86 innings with 78 hits allowed. Promoted to Double-A Midland in July, he got knocked around in some starts (including one I saw in August) due to command issues, but finished 5-4, 3.96 with a 31/20 K/BB in 50 innings, with 40 hits allowed. In the book this year I gave him a Grade B-, writing that Ross' fastball could hit 95 MPH, his slider was nasty, and he occasionally showed a good changeup, but that I remained worried about his control and mechanics that appeared stressful to me. Here is the scouting report I wrote after seeing him in mid-August:
Positives: he's got great stuff, working consistently at 90-94 MPH in this game and showing good bite on his breaking ball. His fastball also has good sinking action in addition to the velocity. Negatives: he had no idea where the ball was going, showing poor command, especially in the first inning before settling down a bit in the second and third. I'm also not wild about his mechanics, though it looks like he's smoothed them out a bit since he was in college at the University of California. Ross has very good stuff but is still figuring out what to do with it.
Ross made huge strides with his control this spring, earning the spot in the Oakland bullpen, though in the long run it is more likely that he will be a starter. Ideally I would like to have him get more minor league time, but I say that about most pitchers and Oakland has been more willing to rush young ones lately. I do think it is a good idea for him to remain in relief for the time being, using the old-style Earl Weaver approach for pitcher development of which I'm very fond.
Ross reminds me of former Twins pitcher Scott Erickson. Tyson is two inches taller (6-6 rather than Erickson's 6-4), but their stuff (hard sinker with good velocity, hard slider) is similar. Erickson was more refined at the same stage of their careers, but if Ross can avoid injury and continue showing stronger control, he is capable of Erickson-like performance. Erickson went 142-136 over 2361 major league innings. Although his final career ERA+ was slightly below average at 98, he was a 20-game winner, threw a no-hitter, and had several very strong seasons. If Oakland gets something similar out of Ross, they should be very happy.