Injuries have slowed the hype on him, but Ross Stripling could be a dark horse pitching prospect and a player to watch in Spring Training.
When the Dodgers drafted Texas A&M pitcher Ross Stripling in the fifth round of the 2012 draft, they almost instantly added a promising pitching prospect, as Baseball America ranked him in their top-10 prospects following the 2012 season.
Stripling did nothing to lost top prospect status in 2013, as he succeeded in both High-A Rancho and AA Chattanooga. In 127 2/3 combined innings, Stripling posted a 2.82 ERA and struck out 117 batters while walking only 30. He attended big league camp in 2014.
This is where things went wrong, as he underwent an MRI after feeling elbow soreness. He pitched against the Diamondbacks in February that year and experienced elbow pain. According to True Blue LA, Stripling had felt discomfort in his elbow earlier in the week before his appearance, but didn’t disclose that to coaches or trainers.
Stripling underwent a minor surgery to remove loose bodies from his elbow, cleaning it up before undergoing Tommy John Surgery, according to J.P. Hoornstra. Stripling was sidelined for more than a year and returned to the hill last June. After one start in Great Lakes, he moved up to AA-Tulsa and posted a 3.88 ERA in 13 starts there. They were cautious with him coming off Tommy John, but he went six or more innings four times and posted solid numbers overall for a guy that hadn’t pitched in over a year.
The Dodger added Stripling to the 40-man roster this offseason, as he would have been eligible for the Rule 5 draft had they left him off. Stripling is with the team at Camelback Ranch right now and should get the opportunity to show what he can do on the hill.
Unfortunately for Stripling, there is competition aplenty on the hill. Even if Hyun-jin Ryu isn’t ready to go for opening day, Stripling is a longshot to make the team early in 2015. He’ll not only have to compete with major-league proven pitchers like Alex Wood, but at the end of last season MLB Pipeline had Stripling as the 12th best pitching prospect in the Dodgers’ system (25th overall). He’s obviously behind Julio Urias, Jose De Leon, Frankie Montas and Grant Holmes, but Pipeline also had the injured Walker Buehler, Chris Anderson, Yadier Alvarez, Jharel Cotton, Zach Lee, Chase De Jong, Jacob Rhame and Josh Sborz rated ahead of Stripling. It might be an unfair comparison for a guy coming off major surgery and he certainly could be more talented than a handful of these guys, but there will be a ton of competition just to crack the AAA rotation, let alone the Dodger rotation.
Things could clear up in the near future, as the Dodgers have two starters that could be off the team next season (Scott Kazmir can opt out, Brett Anderson is on a one-year contract). The Dodgers obviously wanted to keep Stripling around, which they showed by adding him to the 40-man. He’ll be 27 in November so he’s getting a bit old for a prospect, but Stripling could be a quality depth arm this season and with an impressive Spring and another good season under his belt, could be a factor later in 2015 or heading into next season.