As impressive as he was this past season, Trenton Thunder pitcher Wilkins De La Rosa had to battle injuries like many guys on that team.
Thunder pitching coach Tommy Phelps sees that as the major factor in how the twenty-four year old pitched.
"He's battled injuries on and off all season, so he hasn't gotten into a good groove," Phelps said. "He's had those arm issues where he hasn't gotten that pitch where he wants, but he's got a lot of upside."
De La Rosa knows he needs to stay healthy to improve in the offseason.
"I can be better in many ways in the offseason. I need to get my arm stronger," he said before the final game of the Thunder's regular season.
In 82 innings of work with Trenton, he went 4-5 and finished the season with a 3.48 ERA. Prior to the All-Star break he posted an ERA of 4.20, but lowered it to 2.00 after the break. He was particularly good at home, with an ERA of 2.27 compared to 5.14 on the road. He began the season in Class-A Tampa, posting an ERA of 1.29 before being promoted.
Though he had his troubles in the last part of the season, Phelps saw a pitcher with a lot of potential.
"He throws 94, 95 from the left side with the great arm angle," Phelps said.
De La Rosa felt better this season about his ability to throw his fastball as well.
"I have the same velocity as the start of the season, the fastball is sitting better," he said.
His changeup is a pitch he's also improved and his confidence in throwing it is clear.
"The changeup," he said, "is now my out pitch. I can throw it for strikes, and I think I can be consistent with it."
"My slider is better too," he added.
Phelps agrees saying, "His slider has nice rotation."
Even with his changeup being his out pitch, getting better at using all of his pitches is part of his progress as well. But the ability to be a guy that can successfully get other guys out on a regular basis is also part of the growing process.
"[It's] the same thing I've been working on with all these guys and that's consistency. If he can be consistent, and stay healthy, he'll keep getting better," Phelps added.
The other issue with De La Rosa is exactly where to use him. While the Yankees wrangle with the future of pitcher Joba Chamberlain, De La Rosa is also a pitcher who can be used in many ways to help his club.
"I've only seen him out of the rotation, but, he's got a good arm, and a good angle to his pitches. And he's a smart kid," Phelps said.
Though many players have their preference, De La Rosa isn't so sure he knows exactly.
"I think I can be a good reliever, but I believe I can do both."
Phelps refers to that out pitch as a possible determining factor.
"[He] has the ability to pitch out of the bullpen and possibly to start because he's developed that changeup."
So is he ready to be a big league player?
"He is a definite legitimate prospect, but he has a ways to go," Phelps said.
De La Rosa Could Have Been Better
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