On Carson Ragsdale, the Phillies’ fourth-round pick who once dominated the NCAA’s best team

With their penultimate pick in the 2020 MLB draft, the Phillies selected 6-foot-8 right-hander Carson Ragsdale out of the University of South Florida. The team prioritized upside in the five-round shortened draft and Ragsdale has a ton. The 22-year-old Florida native was recruited out of high school as a two-way player, manning both first base and pitcher’s mound.

The Phillies drafted University of South Florida pitcher Carson Ragsdale with the 116th selection in the 2020 MLB draft. (USF Athletics)

“He was a very athletic first baseman for his size and had tons of power,” Ragsdale’s college coach Billy Mohl told Phillies Nation. “He decided however that his future was on the mound and I think he made the right decision.”

Mohl joined the USF baseball staff in June 2014 as an assistant coach who worked extensively with pitchers. He was named head coach in 2017 and holds a 61-47-1 record in two seasons leading the program. Since 2015, 13 USF pitchers have been selected under Mohl’s guidance. Ragsdale’s selection means the University keeps an impressive streak alive: At least one USF player has been selected in the draft each of the last 21 years.

In three seasons as a member of the Bulls, Ragsdale threw 50 1/3 innings. He spent his first two seasons in the bullpen and according to Mohl, began to turn the corner at the end of his sophomore season. He underwent Tommy John surgery in October 2018 and missed the entire 2019 season.

Ragsdale found himself in the rotation as the Sunday starter amid his return in 2020. In his final appearance with USF before COVID-19 forced the NCAA to halt all athletic competition, Ragsdale struck out 10 batters over four innings against the No. 1 ranked team in the country, the University of Florida. Mohl called it the most dominant outing he has ever seen. Phillies amateur scouting director Brian Barber was in attendance that day.

“To be able to see him compete at that type of level against a quality team as the University of Florida, it probably gave us more comfort in what we had seen in the other starts as well,” Barber told the media during a Zoom conference on Friday. “He completely dominated a high-level team like Florida with his curveball that day and with the mid-90s velocity.”

The Phillies got their first look at Ragsdale when area scout Bryce Harmon attended a preseason scrimmage in early February. From there on, at least one Phillies scout was in attendance for all four of Ragsdale’s regular-season starts.

“We felt really comfortable in what we were able to get,” Barber said. “Of course, he might have been one of those guys where if he had a longer track record of doing this, he might not have been there in the fourth round for us. We feel 100 percent comfortable in what we’re getting now and he just doesn’t have that long track record that some of the other people might have.”

Ragsdale’s stock could have risen considerably if it wasn’t for the shutdown. He was slated to become the team’s Friday starter, which is the college equivalent to the ace of a big-league staff.

While he posses a 55-grade mid-90s fastball and a curveball that can tear apart a lineup, Ragsdale lacks a quality third pitch. If he doesn’t develop a third pitch, he could be better suited for a relief role, especially considering he can rack up a ton of strikeouts. The Phillies, however, are confident he can stick in that role.

“Is it a guy that could move into the bullpen down the road?” Barber asked. “I think he could but our interest was as a starter and we believe in his ability to be a starter.”

Mohl is a little less bullish on his former player as a starter at the professional level.

“Carson has the chance to be a starter,” Mohl said. “The one thing that will hold him back is lack of a quality third pitch. He has a changeup, but we didn’t get the chance to really develop it as he just came back from Tommy John. Right now he is a two-pitch guy. “

The 22-year-old is also less than two years removed from major surgery. Mohl, however, believes Ragsdale’s health should not be a concern long-term.

“He came back stronger than ever after Tommy John,” Mohl said. “His work ethic and the way he takes care of his body will hopefully keep him healthy for years to come.”

Ragsdale is expected to sign with the Phillies as Barber said he does not foresee difficulties signing any of his four draft picks. His slot value is worth $497,500. The deadline to sign is Aug. 1.

On the second night of the draft, Ragsdale’s phone was relatively quiet through the third round. Then the calls came in the fourth round. Less than a minute before the pick was made, Ragsdale was notified that the Phillies selected him with the 116th pick.

Barber confirmed on the Zoom call that Bryce Harper reached out to all four of the Phillies’ draft selections, so a call from the Phillies slugger followed shortly after. Ragsdale has not confirmed publicly whether or not he had received the call but nonetheless, he is excited to soon don red pinstripes.

“I’m more than happy to be a Phillie,” Ragsdale told the Florida media, including Kyle Wood of the Tampa Bay Times. “And I can’t believe this dream came true.”


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