Phillies draft: Adversity no problem for RHP Carson Ragsdale

Glove and Philadelphia Phillies hat (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)
Glove and Philadelphia Phillies hat (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images) /

Phillies fourth-round pick Carson Ragsdale has overcome plenty of adversity

Selected in the fourth round of the shortened 2020 Major League Baseball Draft, recently signed Philadelphia Phillies prospect RHP Carson Ragsdale says becoming a professional baseball pitcher is a “dream come true.”

Given Ragsdale’s injury history and this year’s draft being just five rounds and 160 overall picks, the right-hander could have been easily passed on. But, the Phillies gave him a chance.

“I still can’t believe it. It’s a surreal feeling,” the 6-foot-8 pitcher who was taken 116th overall recently told Tampa’s Bay News 9. “All those years of hard work just finally paying off.”

Towards the end of his 2018 sophomore season at the University of South Florida in Tampa, Ragsdale’s head baseball coach, Billy Mohl, says he “finally started hitting his stride and figuring things out.” However, during an intrasquad game, Ragsdale suffered a torn ligament in his elbow, requiring him to undergo Tommy John surgery.

While Ragsdale’s 2019 junior collegiate season was over before it ever began, nothing was going to stop him from pursuing his dreams. Ragsdale worked his way back into the starting rotation this past season, coming off of Tommy John, with a different mindset.

“It was really hard to go through [that], but I just kind of had to keep positive. I realized baseball isn’t everything.”

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Ragsdale says he tried to simply have fun, compete, and play every game like it was his last. His efforts quickly pay off, as he led his team’s pitching staff in ERA (2.84) and strikeouts (37) across four starts and 19 innings, helped by an above-average breaking ball.

Then, the pandemic struck, causing the now-22-year-old to miss nearly another full season.

“That was disappointing,” says Mohl, who adds Ragsdale was just getting ready to assume the top spot in the rotation. “When he got back [from injury], he was a man on a mission. He is one of the hardest-working players we’ve ever had here and his hard work paid off.”

“Everything he does in his life he does 100 percent.”

Despite Tommy John surgery and the pandemic limiting Ragsdale’s collegiate career at USF to just 29 appearances, he believes he did enough this year, as well as in intrasquads and fall practice, to draw the attention of big-league scouts.

“I think I just came off Tommy John and put in the work. I was comfortable with what I had done,” he says.

The Phillies recognized Ragsdale’s efforts, and made one of the tallest amateur prospects in the draft among their four selections, joining prep RHP Mick Abel (round 1), shortstop Casey Martin (round 3), and outfielder Baron Radcliff (round 5). All four have signed with the Phillies; Ragsdale’s signing bonus valued $225,000, albeit his slot value at No. 116 overall being $497,500.

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In a recent interview, Phillies general manager Matt Klentak says that while what Ragsdale did this year was a small sample size, his performance was “exceptional.”

“Obviously, 19 innings is not the largest sample. I’m not trying to draw any huge conclusions from that,” he continued. “This kid is a really good athlete. He’s 6-foot-8 and sometimes the guys with the ‘long levers’ do have a tough time repeating, getting to the same release point, and commanding the baseball. Sometimes that never develops at all, but sometimes it develops later for these guys that are really tall like that.”

The Phillies general manager went on to say that Ragsdale’s athleticism and the fact that he’s shown earlier this season the “ability to command the baseball” was “really exciting.”

And, the Phillies have no concerns that Ragsdale recently underwent Tommy John surgery.

“It’s a grind coming back from a surgery like that,” Klentak says. “I think his college program took very good care of him [and] brought him back the right way.”

“His size, physicality, athleticism, projection, and ability to spin the baseball, we thought that was a pretty good pick in the fourth round,” he continued.

“We’ll see. He’s had some adversity in his career, but that’s why he gets to the fourth round and doesn’t go in the top few rounds.”

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Mohl says he is not surprised Ragsdale was drafted, calling him an “unbelievable student” and “unbelievable person,” adding: “Everything he does, he puts his heart and soul into it. This was a great reward for him.”

In being selected by the Phillies, Ragsdale’s professional career will have a stop at the Clearwater Threshers. Given his family lives about 20 minutes down the road, Ragsdale says it is huge for them, given they enjoy coming out and seeing him play.

“To be able to celebrate [being drafted] with my family together — I had my entire family pretty much over to the house — it’s a great feeling.”