Scouting Yankees Prospect #6: Rafael DePaula

The New York Yankees agreed to sign right-handed pitcher Rafael DePaula out of the Dominican Republic back in November of 2010 but previous identity issues stalled his official signing until March of 2012. Boasting plus stuff across the board, the 21-year old dominated the Dominican Summer League in his debut season last year and could be primed to move quickly going forward.

Vital Statistics:
Name: Rafael DePaula
Position: Pitcher
DOB: March 24, 1991
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 215
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

Initially suspended by baseball for a year before ever signing with the Yankees, it took nearly sixteen more months for his Major League Baseball investigation to be cleared and his visa issue finalized after he had unofficially signed.

"At first when they told me ‘we have a problem here' and they started investigating I got down and everything," DePaula said through the help of a translator. "After everything got resolved though I even started crying.

"Thank God this is resolved and I can move forward. I was very happy to hear from the team officials that I was coming here [to the United States] and my family was ecstatic too."

Some personal family issues, however, derailed those immediate U.S. plans in his debut season and he had to pitch in his native Dominican Republic to begin his professional career instead.

The Yankees had long awaited his arrival to see how his great arm would play in games and they were far from disappointed last year as he went 8-2 with a 1.46 ERA and struck out 85 batters in 61 2/3 innings with the Dominican Summer League Yankees.

"I think it went very, very good," he said. "I was commanding my pitches and I think I was one of the leaders in strikeouts so it went very well for me."

He basically proved the two main points everyone already knew -- that he could overpower batters with his mid-90s fastball and plus breaking ball combination, and that, despite the gaudy numbers, he still has work to do to further refine his game.

Ironing out his delivery issues to make them more consistent was a big part of his first professional season and so was further developing his changeup.

"I did use it, not a lot, but I did use it," he said. "Most of the times it was down in the zone so it was a point of emphasis to use it [more]."

The Yankees have had him throwing it a lot more during side bullpen sessions because they realize that mastering that pitch is what will be needed if he's to tap his immense long-term potential.

"The thing we like about DePaula is not only is he able to pitch to both sides of the plate with his fastball -- the breaking ball is a work in progress, he's going to be more of a harder slider breaking ball guy at this stage -- his changeup is his third pitch," said Pat McMahon, the Yankees Coordinator of International Development.

"That's been his goal objective, to work on that pitch. He's made outstanding strides with that. The changeup still has a ways to go."

Staying back and following through his pitches instead of short-arming them has also been an area of focus. So while there are still things to do and a lot more to prove as he begins to face competition closer to his age group very soon, DePaula still has about as sky-high a ceiling as there is in the organization.

"This is a very, very talented guy," said Mark Newman, Yankees senior vice president in charge of scouting and player development. " He's going to be a brute. He's going to be big and strong. He's 6-foot-3, 210 pounds now. He'll probably be 6-foot-4, 225 [pounds] when it's all said and done.

"He's going to have power. He's a power, hard-throwing, strong right-handed guy. His delivery for a kid his age and with his background is good, he has some feel for spin, and he's around the plate. He's been one of the premium pitchers down there."











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Repertoire. Fastball, Slider/Curveball, Changeup.

Fastball. DePaula is a true power pitcher. He sits anywhere from 92-96 mph with his fastball during the course of a game and he has even reportedly topped out as high as 99 mph. He throws mostly four-seam fastballs right now but they get good natural movement and even a little bit of sink that there is a strong likelihood that he'll add a sinking two-seamer in the coming years. His fastball command is average overall but a bit advanced for somebody with so little game experience.

Other Pitches. DePaula's breaking ball is part curveball, part slider. Some would call it a 'slurve' with its 2 to 8 action [like on the face of a clock], but more like a slider, it's a hard breaking ball that sits in the 82-85 mph range and not only sweeps but dives down too. It's a plus big league pitch with major strikeout potential. His changeup is a below average pitch right now but with the way both his fastball and slider move it stands to reason that the changeup has long-term above average potential if only from a depth and fade standpoint. It does need a lot of work though arm speed-wise and commanding it.

Pitching. DePaula is firmly in the grip it and rip it category as a pure power pitcher whose main objective is to blow pitches right by batters. He is working diligently on keeping his mechanics consistent and has shown real progress in that regard, and he is also learning the nuances of setting batters up and conserving some of his energy -- like most young power pitchers he needs to relax a bit more, not get too amped up, and pitch with a more effortless motion. Despite being a bit older age-wise, he's still in the infancy stage of the finer aspects of pitching like holding runners and fielding his position.

Projection. That is the perfect word for DePaula -- projection! He has a truly special arm and already boasts two big-time big league pitches, so much so that he already has the ceiling as a potential big league closer type, especially with his ability to be around the plate so much. However, with a real ability to hold his velocity deep into games and a lot of room to grow commanding his pitches and bettering his changeup, he also has the ceiling as a potential big league 'ace' type starting pitcher. Despite his lack of experience and need to prove more at the higher levels, even if he doesn't reach his ceiling he still should be able to develop into a big league contributor.

ETA. 2015. It's time to let him loose and learn from the school of hard knocks. DePaula should open up the 2013 season in low-A Charleston and should he find immediate success he could find himself in high-A ball later on in the year.

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