USF pitcher Carson Ragsdale underwent Tommy John surgery a year and a half ago, all but ending his chances of playing in 2019.
On Thursday, he began his journey to the major leagues. The 6-foot-8-inch righty became a fourth-round pick by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 2020 MLB Draft.
This year’s draft was different than years past, however. Aside from being conducted mostly on Zoom, the draft was cut down to five rounds instead of the usual 40, meaning the odds of being selected were even slimmer.
“It’s different from years past because a lot of the stuff was online,” Ragsdale said. “[Before] I was able to go and actually meet someone, shake someone’s hand and kind of feel it out that way … [this year] it was all kind of on Zoom calls and it was just kind of crazy.
“I’m definitely blessed to be able to say I was picked in a five-round draft.”
To even be selected in a shortened draft is almost a stroke of luck, according to Ragsdale.
“I’m just blessed to be able to go wherever I am,” Ragsdale said. “I’m just really happy with the opportunity the Phillies have given me.
“I’m ready to get going.”
The draft wasn’t originally something that was on Ragsdale’s mind after his surgery.
“Really I was just concerned with being healthy, competing and just rotating one day at a time,” he said.
His recovery proved effective and it was due in part to USF coach Billy Mohl. He was the key factor in not only bringing Ragsdale back to the mound, but from the very start of his career at USF.
“He was instrumental in where I am right now,” Ragsdale said. “He really helped me from my freshman year coming all the way through to now.”
Mohl not only applauded Ragsdale’s ability but also his work ethic and character.
“The most impressive thing to me about Carson Ragsdale is not that he just became a 4th round pick of the Phillies in a shortened draft,” Mohl wrote in a tweet shortly after Ragsdale was picked. “If you look at all his teammates[‘] tweets about him, they constantly mention what a good human being he was.”
— Billy Mohl (@USF_CoachMohl) June 12, 2020
With the support Ragsdale received, his start to the 2020 season seemed to pick up right where he left off in 2018, when he finished his sophomore season with 24 strikeouts across 21.1 innings.
Up until the season was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic March 11, Ragsdale made four appearances as the Sunday starter and led the Bulls in strikeouts with 37. He was one of the most effective pitchers with an ERA of 2.84 across 19 innings.
The last performance of his USF career, a 2-1 loss against then-No.1 Florida, was also one of Ragsdale’s best — he threw 10 strikeouts and gave up only two hits in four innings.
That game boosted his draft stock, according to Ragsdale.
“Absolutely, I think that was a key factor for me getting selected,” he said. “I was treating every game like it was my last and just having fun.”
Ragsdale’s time with USF draws comparisons to Shane McClanahan, who is considered one of USF’s most successful products.
Ragsdale became the first Bull to be taken in the first four rounds since McClanahan, who was drafted No. 31 overall by the Tampa Bay Rays in 2018.
“I reached out to him for some advice and he had some kind words to say to me,” Ragsdale said. “He’s been someone who I’ve really been able to reach out to and kind of talk through this whole process with.”
McClanahan and Ragsdale were teammates in 2018 and even combined for a no-hitter in a 12-0 win over Army.
“Any team who selects this guy will get nothing but dedication and hard work!” McClanahan tweeted Wednesday.
— Shane McClanahan (@Sugar_ShaneM) June 10, 2020
Ragsdale will join the Gulf Coast League Phillies based out of Clearwater, which means he’ll be close to his USF family.
“It’s a great opportunity for me, I get to stay close to home,” he said. “I get to come back here and hang out here … see all the guys here and they can come see me.
“I think it’s awesome.”