Scouting Yanks Prospect #30: Simon De La Rosa

The Yankees signed right-handed pitcher Simon De La Rosa out of the Dominican Republic in October of 2012. A bargain investment at the time, he has shown a big-time arm ever since he first signed and he's been slowly working on improving his overall pitch-ability.

Vital Statistics:
Name: Simon De La Rosa
Position: Pitcher
DOB: May 11, 1993
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 185
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

The Yankees signed De La Rosa for a measly $50,000 and he immediately went out and paid huge dividends, posting a respectable 3.77 ERA in fourteen Dominican Summer League starts in his debut season in 2013 and striking out 60 batters in just 45.1 innings. Beyond the numbers though it was his power stuff that really stood out for team officials.

"He has a power arm," former Yankees pitching coordinator and current special pitching instructor at the Yankee Dominican complex Nardi Contreras said prior to the 2014 campaign. "He's sitting low to mid-90s, he has a lot of life with his fastball. He gets a lot of swings and misses.

"He's got a power [breaking ball] and his changeup is average, and he's getting better and better at throwing strikes. He's made some real nice improvements from when we signed him during the Instructional League [in 2013]. He's another one who is going to be a real good one."

"He's another candidate to be here [in the United States]," Yankees Coordinator of International Development Pat McMahon added after De La Rosa's debut season. "He's making significant strides and working on down plane fastballs. His breaking ball is outstanding, he pitches in the mid-90s, he's making good strides."

Those strides continued last season as De La Rosa posted a respectable 4.43 ERA in his first taste of baseball in the United States, striking out 53 batters in just 42.2 innings in the Gulf Coast League. But just like his 2013 season, it was the stuff De La Rosa was showing that turned heads more so than the actual numbers.

"Simon is nasty," Gulf Coast League Yankees1 Manager Travis Chapman said. "He actually pitched on the other team but we faced him a couple of times and he was always a challenge. He pitched within the zone, had some movement on his fastball, and really competed on both sides of the strike zone with his fastball and kept hitters off-balance with his offspeed pitches."

"This is a kid that has a good arm, is able to mix pitches, and so far he's had a firm command on his fastball," GCL Yankees pitching coach Jose Rosado added. "He's got a good curveball, he can spin the curveball, [and he's] got a nice changeup under his belt."

The plus stuff is obvious. It's the other nuances to pitching that remain focal points for De La Rosa, especially since he's been pitching for barely over two years now.

"It's been good, really great," De La Rosa said of his control through the help of a translator. "Mental toughness has definitely been the biggest challenge. I want to be focused on the game plan and not get distracted or rattled because I let up a walk. The coaches have been helping me a lot with that.

""I've been more focused to keep my head in the game. I'm just making one pitch at a time, one game at a time."

Fine-tuning his control, limiting the walks, and further improving the changeup are all aspects of his game that he wants to work on going forward because as all baseball people know it isn't always about having great stuff; it's about having pitch-ability too.

"He's got a lot of stuff; it's really just a [matter of] consistency," Chapman said. "It's not necessarily [having] the stuff but being able to control the stuff and throw it whenever you want to."

"For right now, he's just focusing on that fastball command. That will help him to get those other pitches around the strike zone. I'd like to see him maintain his command and continue to progress," Rosado concluded.

Year

Team

W-L

SV

IP

H

BB

SO

ERA

2014

GCL Yankees

3-3

0

42.2

34

25

53

4.43

2013

DSL Yankees1

1-1

0

45.1

33

33

60

3.77



Repertoire. Fastball, Curveball/Slider, Changeup.

Fastball. De La Rosa has a four-seam fastball that is all about power and movement. Not only does he sit anywhere from 92-95 mph with his fastball that will routinely top out at 96 mph, but it has both a lot of late life and some natural running action too. It is incredibly hard for opposing batters to barrel up as a result. His command of his fastball is merely average though. He can throw it for strikes within the zone but he hasn't yet mastered the art of pitching to the corners.

Other Pitches. Depending on which person you ask De La Rosa's power breaking ball is either a curveball or a slider. It gets really good downward dropping movement just like a typical top-notch curveball but it also has a little late outside break to it too in almost slider-like fashion. Averaging anywhere from 80-84 mph with it, call it whatever you want but it is a true plus big league breaking ball, a big-time strikeout pitch. He can generate a ton of swings and misses with it and he has solid command of it. He rounds out his repertoire with a rather average changeup. He can throw it for strikes but it's a little too firm right now and doesn't show a whole lot of fade and depth with it. If he can slow it down and get it to move as much as his fastball it could become an above average or better pitch.

Pitching. De La Rosa's ideal scenario is getting ahead in counts as quickly as possible with his fastball in an effort to get batters chasing his breaking ball with two strikes but he has a hard time implementing that plan consistently. His delivery is quite solid and advanced for a pitcher with as little experience as he has and he is extremely athletic too which makes his delivery very repeatable. However, he can get inside his head a little too frequently and a few pitches outside of the strike zone can not only leave him frustrated but lead to a spiraling downward effect with his control, especially pitching out of the stretch when runners are on base. Despite his older age, his is still seeking more maturity on the mound and that's just a byproduct of a lack of experience. A rhythm pitcher, when he's on control-wise he can be devastatingly difficult to hit.

Projection. De La Rosa has the size, durability, endurance, and three-pitch mix to potentially project as a solid big league middle of the rotation starting pitcher someday. In fact, on pure stuff alone the ceiling is arguably higher. However, a late-bloomer, one who was signed as an older player, he has age working against him and fulfilling that kind of potential is going to be a dicey proposition at best for somebody about to turn 22 years old and who has yet to log an official long-season league inning under his belt. Short-term the plan will most likely be to keep him in the starting rotation to allow him more time to work on his strike throwing and overall pitch-ability, but the long-term plan most likely has him destined for the bullpen and it's there where the fastball could play up even further in shorter one-inning stints. Stuff-wise there are some legitimate comparisons to former Yankee pitching prospect and current Atlanta Brave pitcher Arodys Vizcaino, and like Vizcaino he has the more realistic ceiling of a future big league setup man or closer.

ETA. 2017. De La Rosa's older age should have him ticketed for low-A Charleston this coming season where he will most likely get at least one more full season pitching in the rotation. Don't be surprised though if he is quickly shifted to the bullpen at some point shortly thereafter [possibly even sooner] and it's in that role where he could begin to move a lot quicker.


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