Many popular opinions of pitching prospects are formed from general scouting reports. While these reports are invaluable resources, they can’t always be trusted. Hundreds of minor league hurlers are credited with “mid-90′s velocity,” but very few MLB starters actually have that grade of heat, for example. It’s incredibly frustrating to hear about a pitcher with “a mid-90′s heater and plus curve,” only to have him come up to the big leagues and show a fastball that averages 90.5 mph and a slider.
When a pitcher come up to the majors, we can finally get a foolproof reading on what exactly his arsenal is comprised of, thanks to the great Pitch F/X system. In this series, I analyze just that–the “stuff” of recently-promoted MLB pitchers. Now that they’ve achieved their big league dreams and thus factor directly into the MLB picture, it’s high time that we know exactly what these guys are providing.
This time, I’m taking a look at Rays reliever Dane De La Rosa.
The 20-year-old Stanton, batting with a man on in the sixth inning, hit a 1-1 offering from Biscuits reliever Dane De La Rosa over the scoreboard in center, which sits over 400 feet away from home plate in Montgomery…
…[T]here’s simply no keeping the kid in Double-A, because … well, for one thing, it’s not fair to the pitchers. Dane De La Rosa doesn’t need to see that dude ever again.
Great rhetoric and all, there, but I wondered: Wouldn’t it be interesting if this anonymous Double-A reliever did prove himself to be worthy of facing the game’s most feared hitters? For some reason, that quote stuck with me, and, as it turned out, De La Rosa proved to be one of the Southern League’s most effective relievers that year, and one of the better bullpen arms in the International League this season.
That got the now-28-year-old former independent leaguer some intermittent work in the revamped Tampa Bay bullpen this year, as he appeared in seven games, throwing 7 1/3 innings. He had a 9.82 ERA, but that was almost all because of one terrible outing in a blowout win in relief of Matt Moore‘s brilliant first start–interestingly, the same game that Andrew Brackman (whom I profiled yesterday) made his MLB debut in. Take that one garbage-time meltdown out of the mix, and he allowed two earned runs on two hits and three walks in six innings, with six strikeouts.
De La Rosa works with a two-pitch mix. He throws a 92-96 mph cut fastball and a slurvy 80-85 mph curveball. The first thing that jumps out when looking at his pitch type results is that he got a ton of swinging strikes. He got swinging strikes on nine of his 46 breaking pitches (19.5%), which is stellar, but even more interesting is that his (cut) fastball got nine whiffs in 82 pitches (11%). That gives De La Rosa a 13.2% swinging strike rate overall, well above the league average of 8.6%. That rate is tied for 38th among the 662 pitchers in the big leagues this year; if he can sustain a rate close to that, he’ll be in pretty good company.
De La Rosa doesn’t come with any command red flags, either. Of his 82 fastballs, 57 (69.5%) went for strikes, although his breaking ball only got strikes at a 56.5% rate. Still, given his minor league performance and the early returns in the majors, it’s reasonable to expect him to maintain similar strikeout and walk rates to the 9.82 and 3.68 he posted in his brief cameo.
The big righthander pounds the outer half to righthanded batters, and does a credible job keeping the ball down:
Against lefthanders, he again keeps the ball low in the zone, and since everything he throws has some sink to it, we can expect him to have some solid groundball numbers (which he exhibited in the minors and his brief MLB time):
Unlike many pitchers, De La Rosa doesn’t simply work away-away-away to opposite-side batters, a luxury afforded by the cutting action on his fastball. Even though he has just two pitches, he doesn’t look like he’ll have any major platoon-split problems.
It’s a wonder De La Rosa wound up in independent ball with this sort of profile–he’s big, throws hard and not straight, and he snaps off a nice breaking pitch. At his age, he’s very old for a rookie, but don’t let that taint your expectations–he’s quite ready to fill a middle-relief role in the majors and could quickly prove himself worthy of even more. Maybe he’ll even get Mike Stanton out someday.
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