Scouting Yankee Prospect #38: Juan DeLeon

The Yankees acquired Juan DeLeon from the Houston Astros in March of 2004 from the Houston Astros for Mike Lamb. DeLeon served as a dependable setup man in Tampa in 2004, showcasing a good fastball and strikeout potential. It's these reasons that Juan DeLeon is our #38 Yankee's prospect.

Vital Statistics
Name: Juan DeLeon
Position: Relief Pitcher
DOB: June 24, 1981
Height: 5' 11"
Weight: 160
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
How Acquired: The New York Yankees acquired Juan DeLeon in March of 2004 from the Houston Astros in exchange for Mike Lamb.

Juan DeLeon has an intriguing background, but maybe not a very good one for him and his status. But, it may have actually sent the Yankees a valuable player in the long run. In 2002, he was known as Manuel Flores, then an 18-year-old pitcher out of the Dominican Republic with great stuff. Juan struck out 63 batters in 55.2 innings in the New York-Penn League, and he was beginning to look like a top prospect for the Houston Astros. However, the 2003 season would bring some serious problems for Juan DeLeon and they didn't have to do with his on field performance. DeLeon ran into some visa problems. As it turns out, his name was really Juan DeLeon, a 22-year-old out of the DR with the same ability, only now a few years older.

Ballplayers, unlike fine wine, do not usually get better with age, particularly not when speaking of prospects. So DeLeon's status as a prospect took a big hit, to say the least, when it became clear that he wasn't as young as he first seemed to be. Still, he returned for the 2003 season and put in another good year. He missed a few weeks because of the visa problems, but still managed a 1.83 ERA and 46 strike outs in 39.1 innings pitched.
Then, something very strange happened. DeLeon was dismissed from the Lexington Legends in July for "conduct unbecoming of an Astro". Thus far, the cause for this dismissal remains publicly unknown and it seems probable that it will remain that way, but it's clear that he did something that made Houston not desire his services any longer. Not long after this incident, Juan DeLeon was dealt to the Yankees for Mike Lamb. Something interesting for the Yankees to consider is that they may have been able to steal a pretty good prospect at a down point in his career. Taking that into account, if he doesn't run into any other off field problems in the Yankee organization, he could end up being an extremely valuable young player.

DeLeon can dominate the competition at times with his good mix of pitches. He features a fastball in the low-90's with good movement, and he also throws a "show" curveball and a fabulous changeup. His major performance issue is his sometimes erratic control. DeLeon has posted some high walk totals in his career, but nothing too terrible that can't be corrected with more experience. He walked 3.05 batters per nine innings in 2002 with Tri-City, but that number spiked to 5.06 BB/9 in 2003. His WHIP ratio rose accordingly, from 1.00 to 1.18. The numbers are still good, but a loss of control is never a good sign. However, he bounced back nicely in 2004, also his first season in the New York Yankees organization. DeLeon served as the primary setup man for closer, Edwardo Sierra. His walk totals dropped from the season prior as he went on to average 3.67 BB/9 in 2004. This was far better than his 2003 walk totals. Not to mention, he also fanned over 10 batters per nine innings pitched. He finished the season with a sparkling 2.93 ERA and proved that he was ready for a big move to AA in 2005. If he is successful there, he will start to be considered as a legit relief pitching prospect that could help a Major League bullpen. With his fastball and knockout changeup to go with it, DeLeon could be a very dangerous arm.











Tampa Yankees









Lexington Legends









Tri-City Valley Cats

















Repertoire. Fastball, Curveball, Changeup.

Fastball. DeLeon has the perfect makeup of a superb relief pitcher and that all starts with his fastball. The righthander can bring the heat, as his fastball tops out around 95-96 MPH. But, usually he pitches around 93 MPH. The command of this pitch is the key for him though. At times, he has some location problems with the fastball and that's when he begins to get hit. Also, his control is sometimes a bit shaky. When he locates his fastball where he wants to, Juan DeLeon can be devastating to face in relief.

Other Pitches. Besides that excellent fastball, Juan DeLeon also brings a changeup and a curveball with him to the mound. However, positive feedback can only be given on one of these two pitches. The fact is that Juan DeLeon has a below average curveball. Coming from his hand, it is not much more than a junk ball that fools hitters with the speed on occasion. Juan has phased this pitch out quite a bit. One might ask how he could survive without a good breaking ball, but the answer is his changeup. Juan DeLeon has an outstanding changeup that is, without a doubt, a plus pitch in his repertoire. He has developed excellent command of this pitch and it has become a devastating out pitch. Not to mention, it helps him neutralize left handed hitters. Without a doubt, it makes up for his sub par breaking ball.

Pitching. Juan DeLeon is all about going after the batter early with his fastball and setting him up for a nasty changeup. If DeLeon gets up on the count on a batter, the batter almost has no chance. His changeup is simply that good. The only time he gets into some trouble is when he falls behind in the count and must go to his fastball over and over again. Also, picture Juan DeLeon as a Pedro Martinez with only a fastball and a changeup, minus the impeccable command. It is a testament to his power generation despite his small frame and his outstanding changeup. What it comes down to is, if DeLeon can improve his command even just a little, he is going to be a very good Major League reliever someday.

Projection. DeLeon projects as a setup man in the majors. He started games in 2002 with Tri-City, but his size and lack of a third good pitch would insinuate that he would be more successful in the relief role he held in 2003 and 2004.
ETA. Late 2006. DeLeon played with Tampa Yankees for the 2004 season, meaning it was his third straight season at the Single-A level. Therefore, he will most definitely be on his way to AA Trenton for the 2005 season. If he succeeds there, a promotion will definitely be in order if the AAA Columbus bullpen is in need. In all likelihood, he will then spend most of the 2006 season with the Clippers as well. Assuming that everything goes according to plan, DeLeon could reach the majors by late 2006.

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