Scouting Padres Prospect Leo Rosales

He wasn't even on a roster when the Padres minor league season began but when he was put in the pressure cooker he responded in style. Leo Rosales won the Midwest League Rolaid's Relief Man of the Year award with a 6-1 mark with 66Ks and 26 saves, finishing with 90 points.

"He was a huge surprise," Wizards' broadcaster Terry Byrom said. "Probably the team's most valuable player. I think he only blew two saves and one of the games he won."

What was so impressive about Leo Rosales was his first save did not come until June 2 but his dominance was consistent all year. July was his worst month statistically as his ERA was 2.25 – not bad for an off-month.

Conversely, his best month was August when he went 3-0 with a 1.20 ERA and six saves, pushing the Wizards into the playoffs.

Rosales was originally tabbed for middle relief when he got to Fort Wayne, a role he was familiar with from his days in Eugene the previous season. But an injury to Ryan Klatt forced the issue.

"That was nice to see," Padres' Director of Player Development Tye Waller said. "Klatt was outstanding and you wonder if you can replace the guy.

"Leo Rosales – this guy got better as the year went along. Every role we put him in he rose to the occasion. He started out as a middle man – a guy that could throw strikes and eat up innings and we promoted him and the injury to Ryan – he stepped up in a big way."

Filling in for Klatt happened to be pretty big shoes. Klatt had set the foundation for his own solid season, going 4-0 with three saves and a 2.79 ERA. Rosales blew those stats away.

In five of his 53 appearances he simply struck out the side. Over his final 13 outings he did not allow a single run, spanning 14.1 innings. He allowed nine earned runs all year and only once did he allow more than one earned run in a single outing.

He averaged 10.38 strikeouts per nine innings pitched while walking just 2.34 per nine. His WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched) was an incredible 0.93. Opposing hitters batted just .183 off him and flailed at a .127 rate when runners were in scoring position.

Saying how good his season was does not do the California native enough justice.

"His fastballs were in the low 90's and he has always had good command of his breaking pitch and changeup," Waller explained. "He was relentless from day one."

Rosales wasn't even on the radar to begin the season, which left Byron baffled:

"What I would like to know is how he didn't make this team at the start of the season? He could have filled any role that they asked. He could have started and given them five or six innings every time out. He is certainly well-suited to be a guy that comes in at the end of a game because of his attitude – plus he has an incredible changeup.

"A changeup is never out of style. Tom Seaver has been very outspoken in his lifetime about the fact that until he got to professional baseball all he threw was a fastball and a changeup. Rosales can throw changeup after changeup after changeup to gets guys out so his fastball that isn't overly hard – he got to 89-91 at times – looks even better when backed up with two or three changeups."

"This is how you find out what guys can do," added Waller. "When positions open up, who is going to step forward? And Leo took the bull by the horns and ran with it. Now he has elevated his status within the system."

Rosales went from just a blip on the radar to a known commodity in just a year. Expectations will be much higher for the right-hander now that he has performed so well. And the next stop is the California League – a tough mental test for any pitcher.

Denis Savage can be reached at denis@sandiegosports.net

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