Sometimes they sneak up on you.
I spend seven days a week thinking about baseball players, so it is a little frustrating when someone gets promoted to the majors that I've never heard of before. Josh Ravin, Dodgers rookie, is a recent example. He was called up a few days ago and has two shutout big league innings to his credit already, but up until this week I didn't know anything about him.
And that's especially frustrating since this is a guy with a 99 MPH fastball.
OK, so where did this one come from?
Josh Ravin was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in the fifth round in 2006, from high school in Chatsworth, California. He pitched very poorly at first, with an 8.55 ERA in rookie ball in 2007 and a 7.19 ERA in Low-A in 2008, primarily due to severe control problems. He began to improve in 2009 but remained inconsistent, effective at times but still struggling with his command. He also suffered from a series of nagging injuries, including groin, forearm, shoulder, hamstring, and knee problems. He converted to relief in 2012 but remained ineffective more often than not.
In 2014 he signed as a free agent with the Los Angeles Dodgers. The change in organizations helped him: his control improved in 2014 and has remained adequate this year, resulting in very good Triple-A performance: a 2.25 ERA with a 30/8 K/BB in 20 innings for Oklahoma City. That's much better than his career norms: in 563 minor league innings, Ravin has a 5.12 ERA with a 522/371 K/BB ratio and 528 hits allowed. This includes a 5.55 ERA with a 99/77 K/BB in 107 Double-A innings, but since reaching OKC he's been much more effective.
Ravin uses a four-seam fastball clocked between 95 and 100 MPH, averaging 98, and a hard slider between 83 and 87 MPH, averaging 85. He had problems developing a change-up when used as a starter earlier in his career, but in the bullpen he can focus on the hard stuff.
His long-term value depends on if he can maintain this improved command and if he stays healthy, two big ifs. But he IS in the majors, and is a good example of why teams hate to give up on guys who throw hard even if they struggle for years.
One final point: Ravin was reportedly a huge Dodgers fan growing up. It is always fun to see someone live out their childhood dream.