Name: Jose DePaula
DOB: March 4, 1990
Signed as an international free agent, DePaula made his professional debut in the Dominican Summer League during 2007. He went 2-5 with a 2.44 ERA, striking out 78 and walking 21 across 66.1 innings while holding the opposition to a .208 average.
Working through the 2008 season as an 18-year-old, DePaula continued the upward trend in the Arizona Rookie League. He made 13 starts, going 4-3 with a 3.57 ERA. In 53 innings he struck out 56 while walking only nine.
Left-handed hitters were limited to a .238 average while righties clubbed .300 off him.
DePaula got off to a slow start, posting a 6.52 ERA across his first six starts. Over his next seven, the southpaw notched a 1.87 ERA, allowing two earned runs or less in all but one of those outings.
"He is an immature 18-year-old kid," AZL Padres manager Jose Flores said. "It just seemed like you don't know what you're actually going to get when he gets up there. When he's on, he's pretty much untouchable."
"I just think the point of just being a little bit inexperienced," former AZL Padres and current Eugene pitching coach Bronswell Patrick said. "He's got a great arm; the kid's going to be something special. Towards the end, he really caught on and started to put hitters away."
His 2.09 FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) led the team and was fourth best in the league. His 9.51 strikeouts per nine innings and strikeout-to-walk ratio of 6.22-to-1 also placed fifth in the circuit.
His left on base percentage of 59.5 percent, however, was sixth from the bottom and spoke of a confidence issue with men on base. When in trouble, he would become predictable with fastballs. Hitters, even at the lowest levels, can hit the heater when they know it is coming.
One of the problems he faced through the year was putting hitters away. There were times where he would get a batter to 0-2 only to see him slip away – allowing a base hit on a pitch that hit way too much of the plate.
"At times, he gets himself in trouble because it just seems like he doesn't have an out pitch," Flores said. "Several times during the season, pretty decent hitters have 10-11 pitch at-bats off of him, which puts his pitch count way up, where we monitor those things to where he sometimes just goes four innings because after four he's already thrown 75 pitches."
As the season progressed, however, DePaula made strides in commanding the ball when he was ahead in the count. It showed in the turnaround that occurred with his ERA.
"The first half was kind of overwhelming to him and he started to realize, ‘Hey, he's a pretty good hitter,' especially when you get two strikes on him, they really protect the plate," Patrick said. "We kept working and working and finally in the second half, he really caught on to it and started using this changeup a little bit more, started pitching inside a little bit more to keep them from diving out over the plate, and he had a great year in the second half."
DePaula has a high-80s fastball that currently touches 90-91 mph. It does, however, have room for projection. With a loose motion and easy delivery, the Padres expect that number to consistently hit the low-90s and reach as high as 94-95 mph. He has good command of the heater and works it to both sides of the plate.
There are times when he should be expanding the zone with his fastball and throwing it off the plate – something he is not yet comfortable with. He does, however, throw it down in the zone, using it as a tool to induce ground ball outs.
His second best pitch is the curveball. With a delivery just off-center from being straight over top, DePaula drops the hook in with solid two-plane action. It is an extremely effective pitch against left-handed hitters – as he throws it at their noses only to see it drop in over the inside corner.
The changeup is a relatively new pitch for him and one that he will need to perfect to limit the effectiveness of left-handed hitters. He throws it too hard and doesn't have the separation necessary between his breaking ball and changeup. He also has a tendency to telegraph the pitch and is working on keeping the same motion as his fastball.
"He mixes pitches well; he's got an outstanding changeup," Flores countered. "He's got a nice little slider that cuts into righties that gives them trouble."
The left-hander was cognizant of keeping base runners close to the bag but could improve his pickoff move. Consistency in his motion will lead to more differing looks and moves to the first base bag. He and his catchers were able to throw out 6-of-15 base runners attempting thievery.
"The times that he was dominant, he pushes maybe six innings because he gets hitters out and he's working ahead in the count," Flores said. "Again, his immaturity is what kind of held him back this year. We see big things out of him once he matures and understands what his best pitches are, how he dominates, and how he can get hitters out taking less than an 11-pitch at-bat so he can progress in a game.
"He came on towards the end; I just don't know sometimes what he's bringing; if he's competing today, if he's just going through the motions today. He showed no life a lot of the times that he pitched; he was like, ‘Ok, it's my turn in the rotation; well I'm going to take my chances today. If you beat me, well, hey, it wasn't my day.'
"That's not what we try not to encourage. We want you to be upset at the fact that you might have got your butt handed to you today, but at the same time you want to make sure that you show some sort of emotion out there instead of just, because that goes along way with a lot of our staff."
Conclusion: DePaula has a lot to learn and time to make those advancements. He has two quality pitches – both could become plus offerings – and a third in the mix. If he can shore up the mental side of the game, the southpaw could become a dominant pitcher from the left side.
DePaula needs to add strength to his frame to take advantage of his size. Filling out the uniform should add velocity to his fastball while not taking away from his impressive command. He has pitchability and is learning the pitch sequence game. Added muscle would help complete the package.
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