The 23 year-old began his professional career as a toolsy outfielder signed by the Yankees way back in 2001. But, when it became evident his hitting prowess did not match his mammoth arm in the outfield, the organization decided to put him on the mound instead.
The results have been nothing short of dazzling thus far. I first started following De La Rosa last season when he tossed 24 innings of relief for the GCL Yankees, striking out 32 batters, walking 11, allowing 20 hits and posting a 2.63 ERA. At that early stage of his pitching career, De La Rosa was reportedly already pumping fastballs 92-95mph and touching the high 90s when he needed it.
Considering the dearth of lefthanded pitching in the Yankees farm system at that time [hello Phil Coke, Anthony Bleich], De La Rosa became an intriguing must-monitor prospect for me. His rise has been fun to watch.
Moving up a level to Low-A Charleston this year, De La Rosa continued torching through hitters with ease and striking out opposing hitters at an absurd rate. Though his slider is a bit inconsistent in terms of command it projects to be a solid weapon in the future, and De La Rosa does have a solid grasp of his changeup right now to compliment a surprisingly repeatable delivery.
The result has been a stellar 2008 campaign, headed by his 94 strikeouts over 75.2 innings, .189 opponent batting average and sparkling 2.26 ERA. After spending the bulk of his year as a shutdown multi-inning reliever for the Riverdogs, De La Rosa was recently converted to the rotation. As has become a trend for De La Rosa, he again excelled in the new role. [And, believe it or not, his numbers have actually improved since becoming a starter]
Of his six starts this year, De La Rosa has only been truly stretched out as a starter for his last four outings. Over those last four starts the 6-foot-3 lean lefty tossed 23.1 innings, struck out 26 batters, walked just 5 and allowed only 4 earned runs. For a converted outfielder to not only pick up the art of pitching this quickly but simultaneously dominate his competition is rare, to say the very least.
Below are De La Rosa's last four starts:
July 2nd..... 5.1 innings, 2 hits, 1 ER, 2 walks, 5 strikeoutsAnd finally, De La Rosa's career stats as a minor league pitcher:
July 7th...... 6 innings, 2 hits, 0 ER, 0 walks, 9 strikeouts
July 13th.... 6 innings, 3 hits, 1 ER, 2 walks, 5 strikeouts
July 18th.... 6 innings, 7 hits, 2 ER, 1 walk, 7 strikeouts
2.32 ERA, 93.2 IP, 63 hits, 119 strikeouts, 44 walks, 1 HRIt's safe to say that Wilkins has catapulted himself from an underwhelming outfielder limited to minor league limbo into a bona fide major league pitching prospect.
11.49 K/9 - 1.15 WHIP - 6.08 H/9 - 0.10 HR/9 - 4.25 BB/9