With Rubby De La Rosa getting called up yesterday, I thought I’d take a look at his prospect status since he was signed back in 2007. I like to do these ranking reviews for guys who come out of nowhere like Sands and Rubby because it's fun to see how these guys ranked over the years...even if I am the only one ranking guys outside of a top 20. For Rubby in particular, he had even less fanfare than Sands because his international signing was way under the radar. Nobody knew who who Rubby was when he was signed as a 18 year old, and even when he was lights out in the DSL in 2008 he still mostly overlooked. So let's look back where he ranked throughout the years.
Prior to the 2008 Season – Rubby only pitched 6 innings in 2007 and had an ERA of 9.00 and a WHIP of 3.50, so I’m sure nobody had even though about him as a prospect at this point. I had not yet started doing my minor league rankings yet so even I didn’t have a ranking for him, and I can’t really guess as to where I would have put him back then.
Prior to the 2009 season – Rubby had an outstanding season in the DSL in 2008, with a 1.71 ERA in 47 innings and a WHIP of 1.16. He also had a K/9 of 9.70 and was just 19 years old during the season. Even still, performances in the Dominican Summer League are tough to judge so nobody really paid any attention to him. I ranked Rubby #51 in my pre-2009 minor league ranking, and had this to say about him:
Rubby De La Rosa was signed out of the Dominican Republic on the first day of international signing period in 2007, and only pitched 6 innings during the 2007 season. In 2008, De La Rosa pitched a full season in the Dominican Summer League, and put up some amazing numbers. In his 12 starts, he had a 1.71 ERA, a 1.16 WHIP, and allowed only a .197 batting average against. In addition, he did not allow any home runs, and struck out 51 batters in 47 innings. At 6’1” and 170 lbs, De La Rosa isn’t going to intimidate anyone with his size, but he big enough to hold his own. Also, he is still just 19 and a half years old, so he is still maturing as a player. In 2009, De La Rosa will be a candidate to make the jump to the Gulf Coast League, where he will face a much bigger challenge.
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Prior to the 2010 Season – Rubby had an abbreviated season in 2009, throwing just 16.1 innings official innings because he was sent home early for disciplinary reasons. In those 16 innings his ERA was 6.06, and his WHIP was 1.71. Based on the short season and disappointing stats Rubby didn't get mentioned in any prospect rankings heading into the 2010 season, although there were reports that circulated during Spring Training that said he had an mid 90’s fastball which created a little bit of buzz. I liked his velocity and his 12.1 K rate in 2009 and moved De La Rosa up to #35 in my pre-2010 minor league ranking. I wrote this:
Rubby De La Rosa was signed out of the Dominican Republic on the first day of international signing period in 2007, and only pitched 6 innings during the 2007 season. In 2008, De La Rosa pitched a full season in the Dominican Summer League, and put up some amazing numbers. In his 12 starts, he had a 1.71 ERA, a 1.16 WHIP, and allowed only a .197 batting average against. In addition, he did not allow any home runs, and struck out 51 batters in 47 innings. His stellar season prompted the Dodgers to bring De La Rosa to Camelback Ranch for spring training in 2009, and while there he continued to earn rave reviews. Keith Law stopped by the Dodgers camp last March and claimed that Rubby had great stuff, staying that “De la Rosa sat at 91-95 mph with a solid changeup from 84-86 that he turns over hard. His breaking ball was a slow curve in the mid-70s, although the harder he threw it the sharper the break became. He clearly has the arm speed to throw a good breaking ball and the laxity in his wrist to throw a curve, so it might just be a matter of development with better coaches as he moves up.” When the 2009 season started, De La Rosa found himself in the Arizona League, but after just five appearances he was sent home to the Dominican Republic for “some undisclosed disciplinary issue”. I haven’t heard any detail behind what happened, but let’s hope that these issues are behind him and don’t resurface in 2010. While it’s hard to get much insight from a season that lasted just 16 innings, I will say that he was reportedly hitting 98 mph before he got sent home, and actually had a very good FIP of 2.89. Combine that with his strikeout rate of 12.1 K’s per 9 innings and you’ve got yourself a legitimate prospect. Like most players, he does need to work on is his control, but I’m sure that will come with more experience. De La Rosa just turned 21, and hopefully the Dodgers feel that he’s ready for LoA in 2010 to get the full season experience he needs after a shortened 2009.
Prior to the 2011 Season – Rubby burst onto the mainstream prospect scene in 2010 with outstanding performances in both LoA and AA. Word had gotten out about his 100 mph fastball, which put him in almost everyone’s Dodger top 10 prospect rankings. Baseball HQ had him a little low at #8, and John Sickels at minorleageball.com had him at #5. Baseball Prospectus and Fangraphs had him #6, and milb.com had him at #3. Baseball America also put him at #3 which tied for the highest ranking, while TBLA had him at #4. I had Rubby at #5 in my pre-2011 minor league ranking, which I posted way before his impressive performance in 2011 Spring Training, and wrote this:
Rubby De La Rosa was signed out of the Dominican Republic on the first day of international signing period in 2007. After throwing just 6 innings in 2007, De La Rosa played a full season in the Dominican Summer League in 2008 and put up some very impressive numbers. His stellar season prompted the Dodgers to bring De La Rosa to Camelback Ranch for spring training in 2009, and it was there that Rubby began to get noticed. Keith Law was the first to report on his strong fastball and overall great stuff, and that was enough to get me interested. However, after appearing in just 5 games with the Arizona Dodgers in 2009 and recording a 6.06 ERA, De La Rosa sat out the rest of the season for what some have called disciplinary reasons. That caused many to forget about Rubby as a prospect, but I saw his potential last season and ranked him favorably at #35 last year. That brings us to 2010, which is when RDLA truly had a breakout season. Rubby joined the Loons in late April, and was initially in the Loons bullpen where he picked up 6 saves. After he was stretched out a bit, RDLA joined the Great Lakes rotation and continued to show plus stuff. He reached 100 mph with his fastball on multiple occasions, and showed a lot of potential with both his slider and changeup. Loons manager Juan Bustabad said that Rubby reminded him of Pedro Martinez, although Rubby throws harder. De La Rosa was promoted to AA in late July and spent the remainder of the season in Chattanooga. He got off to a great start by not allowing an earned run in his first three starts, and after posting a 3.19 ERA in LoA RDLA actually lowered his ERA to 1.41 with the Lookouts. After the season, Lookout manager Carlos Subero raved about Rubby’s ability to add extra velocity late in games, and compared De La Rosa to Edinson Volquez. The one thing that worried me about Rubby’s season was that he jumped from 16 innings in 2009 to over 100 in 2010. However, DeJon Watson put my worries to rest when he told me “The Dodgers are not concerned with his workload this year because he threw way more than the listed 16 innings in 2009…the 16 innings are just what you have listed in your book.” Watson also said that “Rubby’s skill set is what caused the Dodgers to promote him to AA. In particular, his poise, his demeanor, his fastball command, and his ability to make adjustments inning to inning and batter to batter. He has come a long way in a short period of time.” De La Rosa’s season culminated with him winning the Dodgers minor league pitcher of the year award and an invitation to the Dodgers major league spring training. In 2011, Rubby will return to AA to continue refining his game. His strikeout rate dipped quite a bit in 2010 despite his outstanding fastball, so getting more swings and misses is something he’ll probably work on. If he continues to put up solid stats, however, a call up to Los Angeles towards the end of the 2011 season isn’t out of the question.
Why #5: Rubby De La Rosa moved up quite a bit in my rankings, and at just 22 years old his youth is just one of his many valuable assets. With three potential plus pitches Rubby’s ceiling could be as high as a #2 starter in the big leagues, although I still have this feeling that could end up in the bullpen where he would also be very good, just not quite as valuable.
So far in the minor leagues in 2011 Rubby has lived up to this top prospect ranking, so hopefully he'll continue his success in the big leagues. It will be interesting to see if he spends more time in the rotation or in the bullpen throughout this major league career.