Since Andrew Friedman took control of the Los Angeles Dodgers front office as president of baseball operations in October 2014, he’s stressed the importance of having pitching depth.
Friedman and general manager Farhan Zaidi did their best to fortify the organization’s pitching staff, which proved beneficial, if not necessary, as the Dodgers used an MLB-high 16 starting pitchers last season.
Along with rolling the dice on the likes of Brandon Beachy and Mike Bolsinger, the Dodgers have prudently added pitchers via trades, the draft, and international free-agent market.
That was completed all the while retaining prospects who were already part of the organization. As a result, Los Angeles has assembled strong crop of young starters who are on the verge of making an impact at the Major League level.
One such hurler is Jose De Leon. The 23 year old has quickly moved up the Minor League ranks since being taken in the 24th round of the 2013 draft, and is listed as the No. 5 right-handed prospect by Jim Callis of MLBPipeline.com:
5. Jose De Leon, Dodgers
De Leon has skyrocketed from his lowly Draft status and a 6.96 ERA in his pro debut to leading the Minors with 12.8 strikeouts per nine innings and reaching Double-A in 2015, just two years later. De Leon’s stuff and command have gotten a lot better since he improved his conditioning and mechanics, giving him a riding 92-96 mph fastball, a plus changeup and an effective if inconsistent slider.
De Leon began the season with High-A Rancho Cucamonga, where he went 4-1 with a 2.15 ERA, 0.90 WHIP and averaged 13.9 strikeouts per nine innings over seven starts (37.2 innings). De Leon then joined Double-A Tulsa, making his debut with the affiliate on May 22.
In 16 starts with the Drillers, De Leon was 2-6 with a 4.11 ERA and 1.17 WHIP. His strikeouts per nine innings dropped a tick, but remained an impressive 12.3 over 76.2 innings pitched.
High-A opponents hit .193 with one home run and five doubles against De Leon, while opposing batters in the Double-A level hit .219 with 11 home runs, four triples and 15 doubles.
With an overall average of 12.8 strikeouts per nine innings last season, it marked the second consecutive year De Leon has led all Minor League pitchers in that category (minimum 75 innings).