The Yankees signed Simon de la Rosa back in 2013, and he already had impressive stuff at that point. From the get go the Yankees felt they had a similar pitcher to Rafael DePaula. The results haven’t quite been the same yet, but with his stuff, de la Rosa could make a huge impact this year. He has the kind of talent where he could push himself to the top 10 if he cuts down on his walks and develops a reliable third pitch this offseason.
Simon started his career in the DSL, where he had a good amount of success in his first season as a 20 year old. He threw 45.1 innings, had 60 strikeouts, 33 walks, and a 3.77 ERA as a 20 year old. The numbers showed what Yankees management already knew about De la Rosa; he is raw. 6.6 walks per nine innings is not going to cut it at any level. Luckily he was dominant enough that the Yankees looked past his numbers and sent him stateside in 2014.
In his first season in the US, De la Rosa improved on his walk rate but his ERA suffered. He ended up with a 4.43 ERA in 42.2 innings and 53 K to 25 walks. His strikeout rate remained a solid 11.2/9 innings. The walk rate dropped to 5.3 per nine innings, which is a good sign. Most importantly, scouts were able to get their first look at De la Rosa since he came stateside, and they were impressed.
His best offering right now, much like DePaula, is his fastball. He has good late movement on the pitch and generates swings and misses. He tries to locate the pitch on the corners but thus far in his career has had difficulty with that task. Moving forward he can become a greater success if he is able to locate this pitch.
The one thing that separates De la Rosa from DePaula is that he has a much better breaking pitch. The pitch is already in the plus category, and again he just needs to start locating it better. He also throws a changeup which is in development. If he is able to start locating these pitches, then he will be able to tear through the lower minors. If the changeup turns into a plus pitch eventually, he will have the ability to tear through the upper minors as well.
De la Rosa has a good chance to start the 2015 season in Charleston. He will have to demonstrate in Spring Training that he has yet again improved his control to make it there though, because there is some stiff competition.
With his current stuff, he has the ceiling of a late inning reliever, but that will change if he is able to develop a third pitch and improve his control. His ceiling would then improve to a 2nd starter, which is a valuable commodity for any team. He will reach his floor if he does not improve his control. He will never make the major leagues with a walk rate of 5.2. He has plenty of time to improve that number though, as many pitchers find their control somewhere along their journey through the minors.
De la Rosa was another good find for the Yankees on the international market. Brian Cashman would probably describe him as another “lottery ticket” at the lower levels. Those are always good to have in your system. It’s impossible to predict the future, so no one knows for sure whether or not De la Rosa will find his control this year, next year, or ever. One thing is for sure though, if he is able to do so, he is going to be a force to be reckoned with and a breakout player.