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« Draft Prospect: Matthew Purke, LHP, Klein HS | Main | Texas Rangers Prospects: Joseph Wieland and Matt Thompson »
Wednesday
May272009

Texas Rangers Prospects: Robbie Ross and Joseph Ortiz

Robbie Ross. LHP, 5' 11", 185 lbs, Born: June 24, 1989. The 2008 2nd round pick of the Texas Rangers was said to have 1st round talent. Some minor signability concerns allowed Ross to slip into the early 2nd round where the Rangers selected him and eventually signed him for a reported $1.575 million signing bonus. He has yet to make his professional debut, but Ross could be in line to join the Spokane rotation in less than a month.

In a post-draft interview with Ross, Jason Cole of Scout's LoneStarDugout.com wrote the following:

Ross enters pro ball with an advanced changeup to go along with his fastball and slider. The southpaw’s fastball, as he explains in the interview, generally sits in the upper-80s, low-90s, but he has shown the ability to dial it up to 94 mph at times.

Out of the wind-up, Ross has a very high leg kick, reminiscent of Nolan Ryan's leg kick. After the kick, he starts to drift forward before sitting down on his back leg. This loads the leg very well, but it also lowers his potential release point. From lower release points, pitches take more flattened paths to the plate compared to pitches thrown from higher release points.

Ross keeps his front leg and hip closed until right before foot plant. When he lands, his center of mass almost completely stops moving forward. The momentum from his drive helps him open his hips really well and pulls his back foot forward off the rubber. I prefer this action to the foot drag seen in a lot of pitchers. (In Ross's 2008 MLB Draft Report, he is seen dragging his back leg like dead weight on his first pitch and last pitch, both presumably change ups. I did not identify any change ups within my video sample.)

Worth mentioning is the path his front foot takes toward his landing. His front leg moves in a sweeping motion. By the time his front foot plants, it is moving more toward third base than it is toward the plate. This gives him a soft landing and sort of kick-starts his hip turn as he turns his front leg to face the plate. I like the soft landing but prefer a more direct stride.

As one would expect, Ross's hip rotation leads to strong shoulder rotation. Ross maintains extremely level shoulders throughout. Because he keeps his shoulders level, his elbow moves in a sharp arc around his body. Ross picks up the ball mostly with his shoulder, but he reverse-rotates his shoulders and takes his elbow well behind his back and toward third base. All of this creates a curved path to release, resulting in the centripetal force that causes forearm flyout.

Ross's pronation seems to occur during release. This provides a degree of protection from the negative effects of forearm flyout, but at this frame rate and camera angle, it is impossible to determine whether it prevents his ulna from slamming into his humerus. I was unable to identify any sliders in my sample, so I do not know if he supinates his release for that pitch.

At foot plant, Ross's arm is nearly vertical, but active external rotation is still taking place. This creates a reverse forearm bounce where the baseball is moving toward third base and his elbow is moving toward first base. This indicates a large valgus torque in his elbow and is a risk factor for his ulnar collateral ligament.

Ross's follow-through is where things get interesting. The continuation of the centripetal force described above causes his arm to wrap slightly across his body. There is some recoil, so I have some concern for the posterior capsule of his shoulder, mainly the infraspinatus and teres minor muscle tendons.

Finally, Ross has a weird little hop-twist after everything slows down. This is probably caused by a continuation of his powerful shoulder rotation. He ends in an athletic yet awkward looking stance.

Joseph Ortiz. LHP, 5' 7", 175 lbs, Born: August 13, 1990. When Ortiz debuted with the Low A Clinton Lumberkings last season, he was only 17 years old. Definitely one of the smaller players in the league, Ortiz pitches beyond his stature. Even as one of the youngest players in the league, Ortiz's only statistical fault was a high walk rate - 4.5 per 9 innings. He struck out just over 7 batters per 9 innings and allowed just under 6.5 hits per 9 innings.

This winter, Cole compared Ortiz to former Rule V pick Fabio Castro because of their similar body types and repertoires. From Cole's scouting report:

The lefty constantly attacked hitters with his 87-91 mph fastball... hard, late-breaking slider... [and] a promising, occasionally used changeup...

Ortiz has a very compact delivery without a lot of flair or wasted movement. His stride is fairly standard, and he lands noticeably closed. His front leg sweeps like Ross, but Ortiz puts his foot down before it sweeps all the way across.

Ortiz pulls his elbow down and to the side as he flexes his trunk forward. This can help raise the release point but prevents a few trunk muscles from adding to the pitch and puts a little extra stress on his spine.

His hip rotation isn't great, and he drags his toe in the dirt pretty firmly. Ortiz flexes his trunk over his front hip, so hip rotation - or lack thereof - isn't a huge factor for him. This drives his throwing shoulder in a nearly straight line toward home plate.

Ortiz takes the ball only slightly behind his back, but noticeably drives his elbow toward first base before as he explodes toward release. This lateral movement causes forearm flyout, but Ortiz, unlike Ross, pronates late, making him more susceptible to its negative effects.

Despite his compact delivery, Ortiz has a late forearm turnover. This leads to active external rotation at his shoulder after foot-plant and creates a reverse forearm bounce where, like Ross, the ball and his elbow are moving in opposite directions.

Ortiz's arm also wraps slightly across his body, but with a more alarming recoil. Ortiz's arm appears to collide with his rib cage after the throw. The collision doesn't appear to be terribly violent, but the leverage caused by the impact can place extra stress on the posterior capsule of the shoulder where the muscles are already contracting to help decelerate the arm.

At the very end, Ortiz actually does have a little flair. Instead of a hop-twist, Ortiz's post follow-through action resembles the finish of Dr. Mike Marshall's pitchers. His shoulders and arm point at the target while his lower half turns toward second base.

This doesn't mean much for his pitches or for his health, but it's notable because it puts him in a horrible fielding position. I imagine that you'd see a lot of bunts against him in close games.

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