(Photo Credit: milb.com)
From the very first day the injury bug began biting the Dodgers‘ starting rotation early in the season, many fans have been chattering about a big league promotion for pitching prospect Jose De Leon. Now, after a long anticipated wait and just 27 games remaining on the regular season schedule, those same fans will get their wish as the 24-year-old righty is set to make his Dodgers debut in the series finale against the Padres on Sunday.
After being held back early in the season with a tender ankle while primarily trying to save innings and stamina for this exact occasion, De León has put together a very impressive showing for Oklahoma City. In 16 starts on the year, he has tallied a 7-1 record with a 2.61 ERA, a .938 WHIP and an 11.6 K/9. Over his last six starts, he has a 1.30 ERA with 46 strikeouts and four walks in 41-2/3 innings of work. Additionally, he has an active scoreless streak of 17-2/3 straight innings for OKC, dating back to Aug. 17.
In his most recent start for Oklahoma City on August 28, De León fanned a season-high 13 batters with no walks and just four hits allowed over 7-2/3 shutout innings, leading the club to a 6-1 victory over Colorado Springs and an American Northern divisional title.
Dodgers’ skipper Dave Roberts admits that he doesn’t know a great deal about the club’s No. 2 pitching prospect, but like everyone else, is very eager to see the youngster compete on Sunday.
“I haven’t seen a lot, but I know he’s got a very good fastball, he’s got a plus change and he’s got a breaking ball to go along with his mix,” Roberts said. “What I do know about José is he’s a great young man, he’s a hard worker and he’s got a lot of character. And he’s from Puerto Rico. I’m anxious to learn a little bit more about him.”
As far as his repertoire, De León’s fastball, which has nasty, late movement and sits in the 93-96 MPH range, is by far his best weapon. His slider rates a little above-average but continues to improve. His changeup is by far his best off-speed pitch — he often uses it as his strikeout pitch or even when he’s behind in counts.
With the expanded roster and a fully stocked bullpen, innings or a specific pitch count won’t be an issue for De León, yet ideally, his very first MLB victory would be a bonus, with the primary goal being a series win in maintaining the lead in the division.
De León will be opposed by Padres’ southpaw Christian Friedrich, with the start of the contest scheduled for 1:10 p.m. local time.
On the minor league front, another extremely talented pitching prospect, 22-year-old Long Beach native Chase De Jong, will be making his Triple-A debut for Oklahoma City against Omaha on Sunday evening.
The freshly crowned 2016 Texas League Pitcher of the Year has tallied a 14-5 record for Double-A Tulsa this season, posting a 2.86 ERA and a 1.024 WHIP with 125 strikeouts in 141-2/3 innings of work.
In late July, De Jong earned Texas League Pitcher of the Week honors after throwing a complete game, two-hittter against the Arkansas Travelers. He also received recognition in June by being named an All-Star, and participated in the Texas League All-Star Game along with eight of his fellow Driller teammates.
In an interview last May, De Jong told TBPC that he prides himself on his work ethic and that his preparation in the days leading up to his starts has been a huge key to his recent success.
“Preparation for my next start begins the very next day after I pitch. I build off of the good I had in my last outing and I try fix the bad stuff,” De Jong explained. “I look at video days before I face a team and start to think about how they are going to approach me and how I’m going to disrupt the timing of the other team when it’s my turn to start. I really enjoy that process almost as much as going out for a start and competing.”
Many scouts believe that with his pitch selection, his maturity, his remarkable command and his solid mechanics, De Jong may have the ceiling of maintaing a number three or four spot in a big league rotation. If he was in any other organization, he’d probably already be holding down a back-end, major league starting slot.
In regards to his arsenal of pitches, he features a four-seam fastball with a bit of movement that sits in the low-90s, a developing cutter, a slider, a changeup and a plus-plus curveball.
De Jong will square off against Stormchasers’ southpaw Jonathan Dziedzic. First pitch is slated for 7:05 p.m. Central time.