Chicago Cubs Gradeout: David Ross did his job this season

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C. Chicago Cubs. DAVID ROSS. B+. 72 G, .176 BA, .267 OBP, 9 2B, 1 HR, 9 RBI, .258 CS% 

This spring, longtime back-up catcher David Ross entered his first season with the Chicago Cubs, which, despite the change-of-scenery, was his fourth as a teammate of left-hander Jon Lester.

While it was not officially a package deal when Lester was brought to Chicago via a six-year, $155 million deal last winter, the southpaw got to bring Ross, his personal catcher, with him to the North Side.

Chicago Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer understood from the get-go the value in such a move, not only helping ease the transition for Lester, but also bringing another piece of a winning pedigree to Chicago from their Boston Red Sox days.

Once considered one of the better hitting back-up catchers at times throughout his career, Ross wasn’t brought in for his hitting in 2015. In fact, there are pitchers with better lines than Ross’ .176/.267/.252 mark. In terms of his work at the plate, his -0.6 offensive WAR tells you all you need to know.

But Ross wasn’t brought in for his offensive exploits. The Cubs’ roster had more firepower than almost every other team in the league this year and the front office understood that when they brought Ross in. He was here for two reasons: mentorship and defense.

And he brought that, and more, to the Chicago Cubs in 2015.

During the course of his 13-year big-league career, Ross had never posted a dWAR as high as his 0.9 clip from this season, and this alone sums up the grey-bearded veteran’s value to the Cubs this year.

He might not have instilled fear toward opposing pitchers while in the batters box, but he more than made up for his lack of offense while behind the plate and even on the mound. That’s right, he actually took the mound twice in lopsided Cubs’ losses.

Ross only started 46 games behind the dish and appeared back there in 59 games overall. His 17 caught stealing versus 49 stolen bases off him are astonishing considering starter Miguel Montero played in 109 games – 90 as a starter – and threw out 18 versus 71 stolen bases.

One of Ross’ signature moves behind the plate would win a game for Chicago in Washington against the Nationals. Back in June he picked Clint Robinson napping off first which would end the game. The 38-year-old Ross also showcased his own youthful exuberance with a bit of happy emotion directly following the out.

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For a Cubs team heavy on youth and potential, Ross wasn’t just the oldest active player on the roster, but among the most seasoned and the kind of veteran presence a young team can rely on.

Aside from the typical duties any athlete has to adjust to on the field, as well as off, Ross can identify with players, young and old, who have dealt with struggles and adversity. An invaluable aspect anyone can look towards, let alone the Cubs who were the fifth-youngest team at 28 years, 228 days as of Opening Day 2015 – and that’s before Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber and Addison Russell made their respective MLB debuts.

Ross will return for what is likely to be his last MLB season in 2016. He will be in the second year of a two-year contract signed prior to this year. Schwarber’s role remains undefined at the moment; he will likely play in the outfield while sharing catching duties with Montero, with Ross catching Lester.

The Cubs, who won 97 games in 2015, gained confidence throughout the year and never seemed to panic. Leadership from skipper Joe Maddon to players like David Ross are a huge reason why.

Per the Boston Herald during the playoffs, Ross had this to say:

"I think it’s just being the same person when I come in, or (Maddon) comes in, or Jon, or the veterans. We don’t change day to day. There’s no panic. We don’t get down."

When Ross was brought into Chicago, he understood his role and that, in part, was teaching the younger guys. Similar to having a second manager on the team, Ross could easily one day be among an MLB coaching staff or even a manager himself.