That year, Rosales was still in extended spring trying to iron out some kinks. But after dominating for Fort Wayne, he was handed the role of closer with the Storm to begin the year.
The first three months of the season weren't what Thayer would point to as effective. He allowed 18 earned runs over 32 appearances for a 4.63 ERA. In six of those games he yielded multiple runs, accounting for four of his losses.
"That is one of those things I have to work on to get it going in April out of the gate," Rosales said of his slow starts.
It was July when he hit his groove and over the next 29 appearances he surrendered just five earned runs for a 1.50 ERA to give him a season ERA of 3.18.
Rosales offers up a two-seam fastball that runs from 87-to-93, a devastating changeup and curveball/slider combo. The changeup is a pitch he never really threw in college – just experimented with different grips – but has mastered since joining the organization.
That has led to high strikeout totals as he sets hitters up by playing the fastball versus the changeup. He whiffed 77 this year in 65 innings and has averaged 10.92 per nine innings over his three-year minor league career.
With so few batters getting good wood on his pitches, it is easy to see why he has posted a .219 average against in the California League.
"He has a nasty changeup and can run it up to 93," Bill Gayton, the Padres director of scouting, said glowingly.
The changeup leaves his arm with the look of a fastball but drops late, leaving the hitter with little time to react. It rides in the mid-seventies – fifteen miles per hour slower than the heat.
Rosales ended up winning the Rolaids Relief Award after posting a league leading 27 saves.
"The best pitcher while I was there was "Lights Out" Leo Rosales," left-handed pitcher Sean Thompson began when naming the best pitchers in Lake Elsinore (he also named Paul Abraham). "Rosie was always the guy I felt you could go. I still say even with the ups and downs, Rosie's changeup always put me at ease."
An effective third pitch to compliment the fastball and changeup combination could propel him up to the majors. The fear is better hitters will begin to lay off the slow stuff, forcing him to be perfect with his fastball. He has a slider and curveball but has not used either much over the last two seasons.
For all the success he has had over his first three seasons in the Padres' minor league system, Rosales does have some questions to answer. He has flashed dominant stuff but finding the trigger that propels him will be a test this off-season. He can't continue to come to spring training and hope to find his rhythm there. It hasn't worked over the last two seasons. The off-season has to begin earlier.