De La Rosa, who will be 24 years old before the start of next season, has one of the most electric arms in baseball. However, because of injuries, he has yet to prove himself in the majors, but the Red Sox should look forward to finding out what they have.
Los Angeles signed the raw De La Rosa out of the Dominican Republic in 2007. He was moved very slowly through the lowest levels of the minors before going a combined 7-2 with a 2.37 ERA between Single-A and Double-A in 2010.
De La Rosa was so impressive in 2011 that he earned a promotion to the Dodgers. He went 4-5 with a 3.71 ERA in 13 games (10 starts) while striking out a batter per inning during his first major league stint. Unfortunately, his season was cut short when it was determined he needed Tommy John surgery.
Nearly a year after the procedure, De La Rosa rehabbed himself back into shape and appeared in one game with the Dodgers last season before being shipped to Boston with Jerry Sands as the two players to be named later in the mega-trade.
The Red Sox could have gotten a gem in De La Rosa.
Chuck Crim, his pitching coach in Double-A, offered a glowing scouting report, according to WEEI’s Alex Speier:
His main pitch is his tremendous fastball, anywhere from 94-100 mph with very good movement on it. His main secondary out-pitch is his changeup, which is what we consider in the scouting world an 80 changeup [80 is the best possible grade]. It’s very deceptive, especially with his arm speed and fastball. He’s got a put-away, strikeout changeup. He’s got a curveball.
What role should De La Rosa have in the majors?
Speier also wrote that De La Rosa’s arm strength fully returned after his surgery, as he hit 94-96 mph last season and showed the same dominant changeup.
ESPNBoston’s Gordon Edes reported that one of the reasons De La Rosa has such a good changeup is that the pitch was taught to him by former Red Sox great Pedro Martinez.
De La Rosa’s connection to Martinez runs beyond having a similar repertoire and a teacher and pupil relationship. The prospect told The Boston Globe’s Peter Abraham that his grandmother was a nanny to Pedro and his brother Ramon, also a former major league pitcher and another of his mentors.
De La Rosa gives a lot of credit to Pedro for the influence he’s had on his development—particularly his changeup, telling Edes:
He taught me the grip. I've learned how to throw it to both sides of the plate, to left-handed hitters and right-handed hitters. I really command the pitch. I can throw it inside to lefties.
Martinez recently announced he was interested in eventually joining the Red Sox in some capacity. The team would like nothing better than to have him on board to work with young pitchers like De La Rosa, according to Abraham.
Boston’s player development director Ben Crockett told Abraham that the team likes what they’ve been seeing in De La Rosa:
He told us he’s been throwing for quite a while and it shows. Really quick arm, ball is jumping out. He’s aggressive and confident with that throwing program. He’s mixing in some of his offspeed [pitches] at this point, getting a feel for it. It looks like he’s ready to compete. Physically he’s made progress from when we first acquired him in the trade. We’re going in the right direction.
It’s unknown right now what De La Rosa’s role will be in 2013. SoxProspects.com recently projected he will begin the season in the starting rotation for Triple-A Pawtucket. Boston doesn’t have any apparent openings on their major league pitching staff, but that could always change if he has a strong spring training or if they lose someone to injury.
It’s even uncertain as to what De La Rosa will be when he does permanently reach the majors. One talent evaluator told Speier, “His floor is probably a setup reliever—and I don’t think he’ll be that—but the ceiling is a top-of-the rotation starter.”
He has the talent to pitch in any role the Red Sox may want. All he needs is an opportunity, and he seems more than ready for that, telling Edes, “Everything—my body, my elbow—feels great. I feel very strong.”
De La Rosa’s potential is an underrated reason why Boston fans should be excited for the upcoming season. If he can combine Pedro Martinez’s influence with his own hard work, he could one of the next great pitchers for the Red Sox.
Statistics via BaseballReference