SATURDAY: The Nationals have officially announced the move. To clear space for Ross on their active roster, they’ve optioned fellow pitcher A.J. Cole to Triple-A Syracuse. The clear space on the 40-man, they moved righty Craig Stammen to the 60-day disabled list.
FRIDAY: The Nationals will promote right-handed pitching prospect Joe Ross (the younger brother of San Diego’s Tyson Ross) on Saturday prior to their game versus the Cubs, according to a tweet from NorCal Baseball — Ross’ baseball league from his teenage years. Nationals manager Matt Williams has since told reporters, including MLB.com’s Bill Ladson (Twitter link) that Ross will indeed be starting against the Cubs tomorrow.
One of two key players acquired in the three-team trade that sent Wil Myers to the Padres and Steven Souza Jr. to the Rays (the other being Trea Turner, who is still with San Diego due to PTBNL status), Ross entered the season ranked as the No. 63 prospect in baseball, according to ESPN’s Keith Law (Insider subscription required). Baseball America and also considered him a Top 100 prospect, although they were a bit less bullish, ranking him 96th.
Ross has made pitching at Double-A Harrisburg look easy in his first year with the Nationals organization, compiling a 2.81 ERA with 9.5 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9 in 51 1/3 innings. The former 25th-overall draft pick is said by BA to possess a fastball that sits 91-93 mph but can be ramped up to 96 mph when needed. BA also calls his low- to mid-80s slider a plus pitch and notes that his changeup made a significant amount of improvement in 2014, giving Ross a chance to pan out as a No. 3 type starter in the Majors.
The Nationals have incurred a pair of notable injuries in their rotation, with both Stephen Strasburg and Doug Fister on the shelf at the moment. Perhaps more troubling is the fact that neither pitched particularly well when healthy. Strasburg’s velocity and K/BB numbers remained strong, giving the team some hope, but Fister’s velocity was down around 85 mph, and his strikeouts have all but vanished. Tanner Roark has slotted into the rotation in their absence, and the highly regarded Cole has made a start as well. But Roark has not matched his 2014 success either; despite a 2.59 ERA, Roark has just 11 strikeouts in 31 1/3 innings this year and a woeful 5.35 FIP.
None of this is to say that Ross is guaranteed to receive a prolonged look in the Major Leagues. Given his complete lack of experience at the Triple-A level, he could very well find himself back in the minors for more seasoning. Were Ross to remain with the Nationals for the duration of the season, however, he’d accumulate 122 days of Major League service time, which would, in all likelihood, leave him short of attaining Super Two status down the line.