Dodgers 2016 Player Review: Jose De Leon
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Three years ago Jose De Leon was a 24th-rounder who was struggling in rookie ball. Today, he’s one of the top pitching prospects not only in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization, but in all of baseball.

De Leon credits adjustments in his placement on the rubber as well as improvements in his conditioning to turning his career around. After posting a 6.96 ERA in 14 games during his rookie season in 2013, De Leon followed up with a 2.22 ERA in 14 games in 2014.

The following season, he established himself as a legitimate prospect by dominating for High-A Rancho Cucamonga and Double-A Tulsa to the tune of a 2.99 ERA with 163 strikeouts in 114.1 innings pitched.

It was no longer a question of if De Leon would reach the Majors, but when. At the start of Spring Training it appeared that he was in contention for the fifth-starter spot in the rotation, with Brett Anderson and Hyun-Jin Ryu injured.

That eventually went to Ross Stripling, and De Leon, after trying to pitch through an ankle sprain, missed all of April before making his debut with Triple-A Oklahoma City in May. Then the injury bug struck again.

De Leon felt some soreness in his arm after his 2016 debut and was shut down for another month. He finally returned to the mound in June and had no further ailments.

While his results early were up and down as De Leon built innings back up, he came out of the All-Star break with a vengeance with back-to-back 10-strikeout outings. However, those starts were immediately followed by arguably the worst game of his career, in which De Leon allowed seven runs while recording only four outs.

After a few starts getting his groove back, De Leon put together three dominant starts. He collected 33 strikeouts while allowing just two runs and zero walks over 21.2 innings during that span.

The strong stretch occurred at the perfect time, as De Leon’s final start came at the end of August, just as Major League rosters were about to expand. And he got the call.

De Leon made his MLB on Sept. 4 against the San Diego Padres at Dodger Stadium. He started off strong, striking out the side in the first inning, and ended the game with nine strikeouts.

The right-hander made his second career start in Yankee Stadium, earning his second Major League win. But the season didn’t end on such a high note.

De Leon’s third start came against the Diamondbacks in Arizona and he allowed six runs (four earned) in 3.2 innings. De Leon then failed to get out of the third inning in his final start of the season while allowing five runs (three earned).

While it was an up and down season, De Leon’s ascension to the Majors has been a great story and one that is just beginning.

2016 Highlight

De Leon joined the Dodgers with plenty of fanfare and expectations placed on his shoulders. He met, if not exceeded those, his debut. De Leon’s nine strikeouts tied a Dodgers rookie debut.

2017 Outlook

With the sprained ankle and arm soreness, De Leon effectively missed two months in a year where he was expected to accumulate a Major-League workload, so he may not be ready to pitch a full season for the Dodgers.

That said, De Leon may be one of the club’s top five starters heading into next season. His innings will be monitored, but look for the young righty to make a much more significant impact at the big league level in 2017.

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