What To Know About Jose De Leon
The Rays acquired pitching prospect Jose De Leon from the Dodgers last night in exchange for Logan Forsythe and my immediate reaction was excitement. Logan Forsythe is a very underrated player who has been a key cog for the Rays the past two seasons. Jason did a great job analyzing him and what the Rays just gave up. But De Leon was prime talent and the only way the Rays were giving up a player like Forsythe was for a player like this. So what exactly did the Rays get?
De Leon is a high risk/high reward type of prospect. He was a 24th round draft pick from Southern University in 2013 and after a rough start to his minor league career, has been on the scouts radar ever since. He’s been on just about every top prospect list the past few seasons and for good reason. De Leon has dominated the minors especially last season where he threw 86 innings for Oklahoma City in the Pacific Coast League (a notoriously hitter friendly league) and a 7-1 record with a 2.61 ERA with a 111/20 K/BB rate. His WHIP was only 0.94 and only had a .194 BA against him in AAA. He made four major league starts for the Dodgers last season that weren’t overly impressive but it’s an extremely small sample size. Here’s a small sample of his work in those four starts.
His arsenal consists of a solid four seam fastball that ranges from 91-94 MPH (topping out at 96 MPH). He’s got a plus change-up already, which the Rays have to be very excited about, and a decent slider that is still a work in progress. His command is exceptional and is a big reason for his success. He’s projected to be a number 3 or 4 starter with the upside of a solid number 2. Obviously the Rays are hoping he turns into a frontline starter and if he does this deal will be tremendous for them.
Now with all this upside comes a significant amount of risk for De Leon. For starters just the fact that he’s a pitcher and could get hurt at any moment makes him quite the risk. Durability has been an issue for him as he’s only thrown over 100 innings once throughout his time in pro ball. He started off 2016 with an ankle injury and shoulder soreness which cost him almost two months. Seeing a pitcher miss time due to shoulder soreness is always a major concern but he did rebound quite nicely to have such an impressive season. His velocity was also reported to be down during August but he still remained effective.
Keith Law just began writing his top 100 prospect list for this upcoming season and ranked De Leon at 73. However, he’s pretty much been a consensus top 50 (top 30 in some cases) prospect in baseball the past season. The upside for a great starting pitcher is there if he can stay healthy. The Rays would be wise to leave him in Durham until at least mid-May to gain that extra year of control over him and build up his innings. By June though you’d expect him to be in the rotation full time. A potential future rotation with Blake Snell, De Leon and Brett Honeywell among others has to be an exciting thought. The Rays didn’t want to trade Logan Forsythe this off-season but they simply couldn’t turn down getting a controllable young talent like De Leon. Since the organization can’t sign superstar players this is how they have to do it. It’s always risky when you acquire a prospect in a deal but with the potential upside De Leon brings it could be a home run for the Rays if it works out.