Ryan Rolison, Rockies 2018 first-round pick, back from shoulder surgery

For a Rockies rotation short on southpaws — and for a farm system short on southpaw prospects — Ryan Rolison was a rare talent. He was supposed to be a sure thing.

The first college left-hander drafted in 2018, Rolison checked all the boxes coming out of Ole Miss. Durability. Pitchability. Advanced stuff. He showed maturity and there were expectations he would fast-track to the big leagues after Colorado took him No. 22 overall.

But as is often the case with a prospect’s path to the majors, he ran headlong into numerous speed bumps along the way — the most obtrusive coming just as he was primed to reach the big leagues.

In 2021, he was struck by two bolts of bad luck: appendicitis and a broken hand suffered while shagging fly balls. More misfortune struck last year when a strained left shoulder led to surgery that wiped out his entire season.

Rolison was a highly-touted prep player at the University School of Jackson in Tennessee, where he was named the state’s Mr. Baseball. He was the top recruit in his class and drafted in the 37th round by the Padres.

His beeline to professional ball continued at Ole Miss. Rolison earned freshman All-American honors in 2017, then was the Rebels’ Friday night starter in 2018, becoming the third player in program history with 10-plus wins and 100-plus strikeouts in a single season.

Rolison dominated in a brief stint in rookie-league Grand Junction that first summer, posting a 1.86 ERA in nine starts, then fared decently with a 4.40 ERA in 25 starts at the Class-A levels in 2019. He threw at the Rockies’ alternate site during the canceled minor league season in 2020, then pitched in rookie ball, high-A, Double-A and Triple-A while dealing with his first two health setbacks in 2021, followed by a strong showing in the Dominican Winter League. But all the momentum was suddenly lost when he injured his shoulder.

Now Rolison has returned to the mound and will be dispatched somewhere to the upper minors when deemed healthy enough this spring. Five long years after he was first drafted by the Rockies, Coors Field could finally be in his future this summer.

Rolison’s Journey to the Bigs

Year drafted: 2018 (1st Round, No. 22nd)

Lowest moment: Rolison was tracking to debut sometime in 2022, but shoulder surgery wiped out his entire season and put his status as a future rotational pillar into question.

Turning point: During a roller-coaster 2021, Rolison proved his mettle across four different minor league levels, overcame a couple of fluke injuries and pitched well in the Dominican Winter League.

2023 outlook: Rolison needs to turn in a healthy and productive 2022, which could pave the way to a late-season debut.

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