Standing at 6-foot-1, Adonis Rosa is not the tallest guy out there on the mound. However, he has showcased many of his pitching talents early on that have demonstrated how good of a pitcher he can be.
Originally signed as an International free agent in 2013 by the Yankees out of the Dominican Republic, Rosa began his pro career in the Dominican Summer League (DSL), the following year. He didn’t waste any time before getting to the mound that summer, as he went out and pitched brilliantly for the Yankees DSL team he had been assigned to.
Appearing in 12 games for the team, he pitched 39 innings and struck out 31 batters, holding opposing hitters to an average of .232. Additionally, he posted a starling 1.62 ERA, which was very impressive given that it was his first season in pro ball.
In 2015, Rosa slipped a level and was promoted to Pulaski. There he added more innings to his career total, pitching in 55 that season while attaining a 7-2 record. However, he struggled to prevent runs from scoring, allowing 24, which correlated to a 3.93 ERA.
After the strong season record-wise, he advanced to Staten Island this year. While there, he learned some fundamentals that have helped him in 2016 so far.
“I learned over there that you have to be ahead of the hitters because if you're getting down in the count, it's easier for them,” Rosa mentioned with the help of translator. “So, when I can get ahead and try to throw a first-pitch strike, I can throw less pitches and it's easier for me to work that way.”
First-pitch strikes and limiting walks have been a key to his success thus far in his young career. Joining the Staten Island Yankees meant another promotion for Rosa, his second one up to this point. While many players might get caught up in the excitement of coming to New York but not be able to adjust well to the new surroundings, he has managed to avoid all of that.
“When I came over to Staten Island, I learned that the hitters are smarter here," he said. "They know the strike zone better, and if I fall behind on a batter, he can beat me. Here, when I fall behind in the count, the hitter gets ahead and I can get in trouble because the hitters have more experience. Here, I know the strike zone better now [than in Pulaski]."
Earlier this year, the Staten Island Yankees coaches got to see Rosa pitch in Extended Spring Training. Travis Phelps, the team’s pitching coach, acknowledged how well Rosa performed down there.
“He was fantastic," Phelps exclaimed. "He pitched down in the zone below the knees from the beginning of Extended all the way through the end of it. His curveball improved greatly throughout [the period], which is probably the biggest improvement that we saw.”
During Rosa’s first two seasons in the Dominican Summer League and in Pulaski, he devoted a bulk of his time to developing his fastball and changeup. This time around, in Staten Island, his main point of emphasis is establishing his curveball.
He's a strike thrower;" Phelps said. "He has a really good changeup and a really good fastball, the biggest thing for him was to develop that curveball and he did a very good job of doing that.”
Last season, Rosa allowed runs more often than he had intended, but his overall performance is misleading, as he finished with a 7-2 record, which led to his SI Yankees promotion in 2016. Referencing that advancement, Phelps reiterated Rosa’s dominant strike zone presence.
“He [has the] ability to pitch down in the zone and throw strikes. He pounds the zone with three quality pitches now, his [fastball, curveball, changeup]. He's learning how to pitch, how to situational pitch and how to set up hitters; he's growing and maturing as a very fine young pitcher,” Phelps boasted.
Additionally, Rosa’s consistent depth he provides in games has impressed Staten Island Yankees Manager Dave Bialas.
"He mixes his pitches well," Bialas said. "He gets his breaking pitch over; he can throw it behind in the count, and he knows how to pitch. He’s a converted guy that really fell into it; he can pitch at higher classifications.
We know he's going to get into the sixth inning and that's what you need…He's aggressive, he has got a lot of confidence in his abilities, and he commands the strike zone pretty well for a young kid.”
As Rosa continues his overall development, he’s very focused on his physical growth too.
“Right now, I am focusing on getting bigger with my body,” he noted. “I have to become stronger, have more power, be bigger; I'm trying to be 200 or 180 pounds, that's the biggest thing right now.”
Getting bigger, given his advanced pitch-ability and current stuff, can only help him down the road. Going forward, Phelps is excited for Rosa’s evolution as a pitcher and his overall ceiling.
“I think he can be great. His velocity is going to improve over time as he fills out and gets a little bigger. Mentally he's very smart, he has a feel for the game and he's only going to get better mentally as far as understanding how to work hitters…I think he's got a bright future ahead of him as long as he stays healthy,” Phelps concluded.