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2018 MLB Draft: Ryan Rolison, LHP, University of Mississippi

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Ole Miss ace could be first college southpaw drafted in ‘18

Continuing our coverage of the upcoming 2018 MLB draft, let’s profile another promising college pitcher: Ryan Rolison of the University of Mississippi. Rolison entered 2018 as a potential mid-to-early first round pick. The fluidity at the top of the draft and some inconsistencies in his own performance have rendered his exact status unclear at the moment, but he should still be one of the first lefties off the board. Here’s a quick take.

Growing up in Jackson, Tennessee, Rolison caught the eyes of scouts and was a potential early pick in the 2016 draft. He also had a commitment to the University of Mississippi and was considered a tough sign, so he wasn’t selected until the 37th round by the San Diego Padres.

He didn’t sign of course. Rolison was used as both a starter and reliever as a freshman in 2017, posting an overall 3.06 ERA in 62 innings with a 64/24 K/BB and 57 hits allowed. He followed up with an impressive run through the Cape Cod League, with a 1.93 ERA in 28 innings for Orleans with a 35/10 K/BB and only 15 hits allowed.

His performance last spring and summer was strong enough to put him into first-round contention as a draft-eligible sophomore for 2018, with talk back in January that he could be the first college lefty drafted. That’s still possible although where that puts him in the round is uncertain.

Rolison’s stats on the surface this spring are not as good as last year: he has a 4.03 ERA in 76 innings with a 90/33 K/BB and 76 hits allowed. He has also been less effective in SEC play: against conference opponents he has a 4.82 ERA in 52.1 innings with a 58/24 K/BB and 61 hits allowed.

His strikeout rate remains impressive and is in fact higher than 2017 but some start-to-start inconsistency with his command has prevented a full breakout.

Rolison is listed at 6-2, 195, born July 11th, 1997. He is not a stereotypical soft-tossing college lefty: he gets his fastball to 95 MPH at his best and works at 91-94. That’s quite solid for a southpaw and he pairs it with an excellent breaking ball, a plus curve that is one of the best bendy pitches in the draft this year and the key reason he’s whiffing 10.98 men per nine innings.

His third pitch is an inconsistent change-up, which flashes average but has some days when it just doesn’t work well, Zachary Freeman at ScoutTrio noting for example that the change “was a bit stiff lacking true depth or fade” in the outing he saw. Other sources such as Perfect Game and MLB.com are a bit more optimistic about the change-up but all agree this pitch needs more polish and is behind the fastball and curve in development.

All sources also agree that Rolison has command troubles on days when his mechanics are not quite in gear. There’s also broad consensus that he’s a fine overall athlete with a confident mound presence. The general idea is that his command will improve with more mechanical repetitions and that the change-up has a good shot at improvement. It should be noted that his command isn’t bad, just inconsistent from game to game.

Rolison isn’t quite a finished product but live-armed lefties with a modicum of control usually show well on draft day. He does have more leverage than the average college player as a draft-eligible sophomore, adding another factor for teams to consider. Current rumor has him going anywhere from the middle of the first round to the supplemental round.

Scout Trio Video:

Prospect Pipeline video: