[image title="riverdogs_vs_power_pitch_t600" size="full" id="3305" align="right" alt="Photo Credit: Wade Spees, Charleston Post and Courier" ]Age: 24
Weight: 185 lbs
2008 Team: Tampa Yankees
Current Team: Trenton Thunder
The good: Wilkins started out as a toolsy outfielder. The problem was he couldn’t hit. De La Rosa may have been the best right fielder in minor league baseball. He was incredibly quick, and had a gun for an arm. I remember reading about how good this young A-ball outfielder’s arm was. I wasn’t at all surprised when I heard that he had been converted to pitching after a few years of struggling to hit. I didn’t realize at the time that De La Rosa was a lefty. He throws a fastball that sits at 92 and often reaches into the mid-90s with ton of late action. His best secondary offering is the changeup, which is average or better. But really, he’s a fastball guy.
The bad: De La Rosa throws a slider as his breaking pitch, and it is still coming along. For all intents and purposes, he has only been pitching for two years, so this should be expected. Mike Ashmore reported last night that his slider looked very good, so De La Rosa may already have tackled that hurdle heading in to the young season. He still has very little pitching experience under his belt, so its hard to gauge how much work he’ll need to prepare for the toll of a long major league season. His control is not fantastic, but it has dramatically improved in time and could probably be considered average.
Projection: The sky is the limit with De La Rosa. I remember a fan once pointing out that Johan Santana started out as a young converted outfielder with lots of raw stuff but little polish. Obviously that comparison is just dreaming, but it illustrates how special a lefty with his kind of stuff is. He not only throws hard, but the late movement really makes him deadly. If his off speed stuff comes around, he could very well remain a dominant starter. I rated him our #11 prospect on the year to begin the season, and a powerful performance at Trenton this season could put him in the Brackman/Betances range very easily. Projection-wise, one knock against him is his frame. At 6’0″ 185 lbs, he may have trouble holding up as a starting pitcher long term. He’s been able to throw a 100 pitches per game without a hicup as a starter though, so maybe I am wrong.
Reasons to be optimistic: De La Rosa has dominated batters at every level of the minors. His career K/9 sits at 10.56, with just a BB/9 of 3.56. He has allowed roughly .6 hits per game, and gets plenty of democratic ground balls. He has actually gotten better since being converted to a starting pitcher: while his K/9 dropped from 11.51 to 9.29, he cut his walk rate in half to 2.51 walks per 9. He has remained healthy, and is supremely athletic. The Yankees had enough confidence in him to add a 24 year-old he played just a handful of innings above Single-A to the 40-man roster.
Reasons to be pessimistic: Besides that fact that he is still very raw and potentially unknown, I don’t think that there is much reason to be pessimistic about De La Rosa. At the very least, he’ll be a lefty reliever in the majors thanks to the great fastball. His rawness might actually be a net good for him – he doesn’t have years of high school and college abuse to sap his velocity. Basic prospect caveats apply, but De La Rosa is a damn good prospect, who probably should have been higher on all of our prospect lists at the beginning of the season.
Bottom Line: As they said in the film The Rookie, “We don’t turn down lefties who throw 97.”
Photo Credit: Wade Spees, The Post and Courier
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