This is a ranking that's likely to be at odds with most other 2008 Reds Top Prospect Lists, but I am very high on Josh Ravin. He was listed as the #13 Prospect in Baseball America's 2007 Prospect Handbook, but his performance in 2007 may see him drop substantially on most prospect lists.
Ravin was a member of the Chatsworth High School program that won back-to-back national championships in 2003 and 2004. During his senior season, Ravin's velocity dropped to 89-91 and he was sidelined for a month with a tired arm. However, that didn't prevent the Reds from selecting him in the 5th round of the 2006 draft with the 144th overall pick. The Reds soon found out that they were getting an even better arm than he showed in high school.
Ravin is 19 years old, 6-4 tall, weighs 195 lbs, and throws right-handed. He has almost a prototypical pitcher's body type due to his height and large frame. His height allows him to throw on a downward plane, despite the fact that he throws from a free and easy high three-quarters arm slot. In addition, his body type allows room for growth and additional projection.
Ravin features a fastball that sits in the 90-94 mph range, but touched 98 mph in the 2007 season. Ravin's fastball has good movement with heavy, late life. He also features a curveball and changeup that are advanced for his age.
While he has plus stuff, he has quite a bit of trouble commanding it, but he's still young enough to improve on it.
Ravin made his professional debut in 2006 with the Gulf Coast League Reds, where he worked he worked 21.0 innings in which he posted a 4.29 ERA with a 1.47 WHIP and a 22/10 K/BB ratio. He had a BABIP of .386, had an OPS against lefties of .825, and an OPS against righties of .696. While his overall numbers weren't eye popping, his 3.94 BB/9 and 9.56 K/9 stats were impressive and he was promoted to the Billings Mustangs of the Pioneer League.
At Billings, Ravin worked 15.3 innings and posted a 3.52 ERA with a WHIP of 1.50 and a 18/13 K/BB ratio. In addition, Ravin held opponents to a .189 batting average against in the Pioneer League.
In 2007, command problems plagued Ravin in his return to Billings. He worked 40.0 innings, posting a 39/41 K/BB ratio and posting a 8.55 ERA. Ravin also dealt with some shoulder soreness, which cost him innings and effectiveness.
While there isn't really any way to put a positive spin on his 2007 numbers, Ravin still possesses the tools for success. His good stuff still allowed him to strike out almost a batter an inning, but command was a big problem.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about Ravin is his pitching mechanics, which appear to be almost flawless.
There is a certain beauty to professional sports that can be seen when an athlete performs his task in such a way that all the parts work together as one cohesive unit. When it all comes together, the action is elevated to a place where there's an economy of movement. A certain grace and fluidity.
I'm sure it differs for everyone, but I've seen it several times before, including Payne Stewart's golf swing and Joe Montana's passes. Since studying the Reds prospects, I'm surprised to have seen it twice. In Danny Dorn's swing and Josh Ravin's pitching motion. Maybe it's what baseball scouts call "the good face", but whatever you call it, I think both Dorn and Ravin have it.
Not only can Ravin throw a heavy fastball in the mid-to-upper 90s, but he does it with a very easy motion and arm action. In contrast to Kyle Lotzkar, there is very little effort to Ravin's delivery, which should help reduce his risk of injury. His body control and balance throughout the pitching motion are truly impressive. At no point in his delivery does he ever seem to rush, be out of control, or out of balance.
Ravin maintains an easy, consistent tempo throughout his delivery. Like many modern pitchers, he doesn't begin his windup by stepping backwards with his "glove side" (GS) leg, but rather by lifting his GS foot up and turning it parallel to the rubber. He then rotates his body and brings his knee up well past parallel and nearly to his chest. As he pushes off the rubber towards home plate, Ravin's hips move sideways with his GS hip leading him towards home plate before he completes his leg lift. This move is commonly known as the "drop-and-drive" motion.
This strong hip action maximizes the force that pulls his shoulders around, but his follow through still remains in perfect balance. His "pitching arm side" (PAS) leg lands right next to his GS foot, leaving him in ideal fielding position. As a result, he can get off the mound quickly and fields his position very well.
While his pitching motion is fundamentally sound, Ravin needs to improve his ability to repeat his delivery. If he can repeat his delivery, then his consistency and command should improve.
You can access the link to Ravin's MLB scouting video here.
Ravin had a strong 2006 debut, but struggled with his control in 2007. He has the stuff and the mechanics to be a top of the rotation starter, but he needs to harness his control in order to unlock his true potential. While his poor command is of concern, it's not a unique problem among young pitchers. In addition, it is a flaw that can be corrected. You can teach command, but you can't teach stuff. Ravin has the mechanics and stuff to be successful.
It'll be interesting to see where the Reds start Ravin to begin the 2008 season. He may be returned to Billings, but the Pioneer League season doesn't start until mid June and the Reds may want to get Ravin to full-season baseball. However, if he returns to Billings, then he'd get to work with newly named pitching coach Tom Browning in the new home park of the Mustangs. A return to Billings may be a good thing for Ravin, otherwise he might get bumped up to low-A Dayton.
I have to give the nod to Josh Ravin over Lotzkar due to the fact that his stuff is a tick better and his mechanics are much cleaner. Like almost all pitchers drafted out of high school pitchers, Ravin has a long way to go to reach the majors. However, his solid mechanics gives him a strong foundation on which to build and his repertoire gives him all the tools he needs to be successful.
The 2008 season will be a big test for Ravin, but I wouldn't be surprised to see him take a big step forward. The 19 year old Ravin isn't currently among the best pitching prospects in the organization, but he's quickly becoming my favorite. If he can do a better job of repeating his delivery, then his control should improve, which will unlock his potential. However, if his control doesn't improve, then he'll flame out before ever reaching the upper levels.
His performance next season will reveal a lot about Ravin's future, but for now he checks in at #14 on the list.