Age on Opening Day 2016: 22
How acquired: Trade from Padres with SS Trea Turner for OF Steven Souza Jr. and LHP Travis Ott (both sent to Rays as part of 3-team deal).
MLB service time: 94 days
2015 salary+bonuses: $507,500
Contract status: Under team control in 2016, arbitration-eligible in 2019, free agent in 2022.
2015 stats: 16 G, 13 GS, 76.2 IP, 64 H, 33 R, 31 ER, 7 HR, 21 BB, 69 K, 1.109 WHIP, 5-5, 3.64 ERA, 3.42 FIP, 1.4 WAR
Quotable: "Joe had an incredible season. For a guy that just turned 22 a couple months ago, he showed the poise and the stuff of a seasoned pro. We really liked him coming into the season. As you can see, he has exceeded everybody's expectation on his developmental curve and the time it took him to get to the big leagues, and how he performed in the big leagues." — Mike Rizzo on Joe Ross
2015 analysis: Little attention was given to Joe Ross when the Nationals joined up with the Rays and Padres to complete a 3-team trade in December. The key acquisition in that deal figured to be Trea Turner ... once the young shortstop was allowed to be named six months following his initial signing. By that point, Ross had already made his major-league debut and already was making a strong impression on everyone.
The right-hander proved to be polished well beyond his years, often pitching and comporting himself like a seasoned veteran. His ability to keep the ball in the strike zone — he issued only four walks in his first seven career starts — immediately stood out as a rare trait for a rookie and helped keep Ross in the Nationals' rotation for most of the summer.
There were a few hiccups along the way, and Ross did show signs of fatigue as he reached September. With his total workload — minors and majors — approaching 150 innings, Ross was removed from the rotation down the stretch but was allowed to pitch out of the bullpen three times in the season's final few weeks, so he wasn't shut down completely by the organization.
2016 outlook: Who knew Ross would enter 2016 as a strong candidate (maybe even close to a lock) to make the Nationals' Opening Day rotation, but that's the situation he'll be in when he reports to Viera for his first-ever big-league spring training.
The Nats will look for Ross to build off his strong rookie year while also refining a few things. They'll want him to display a bit more consistency, especially as the season wears on. The fact he has now been through an entire season should help him deal with long-term physical and mental demands of the job.
If he can take that next step, Ross could well turn into a key piece of the Nationals' long-term pitching plan.