Unlike famous Hollywood producer, Robert Evans, who was once defended by studio head Darryl F. Zanuck when Evans was an actor in the film The Sun Also Rises (1957) after fellow actors had recommended he be removed from the cast, Jose De Leon still needs the Dodgers to give him his shot at “The Show.”
In Zanuck’s defense, he said about Evans, “The Kid Stays in the Picture.” For De Leon, we are saying “Let the Kid in the Picture.”
The crossover between entertainment and sports has been discussed many times. Sports are entertainment and the best form of entertainment because although everyone has a role there is no script. The lines of play are ad lib and spontaneous. Humor at its best often occurs when done spontaneously. Sports are no different. We can only guess at what might occur and it leaves us on the edge of our seats, always praying for outcomes and begging for more. Sports are the perfect mixture between foolishness and desire.
The Dodgers have an interesting situation. Pitcher Jose De Leon is a top performer in the Los Angeles Dodgers farm system, while having a record-breaking Dodgers pitching staff. Although, the record-breaking is not what you would hope and expect from an organization and ballpark known for producing great pitchers. It was about the Dodgers growing list of players, specifically of the pitching variety, on the disabled list.
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With the last two Dodgers starters not making it past the first and second inning, Brandon McCarthy and Brett Anderson, the team again finds itself in need a starter who can throw more innings than a long reliever.
What do we get when combining Dodgers pitchers that have struggled to stay healthy and pitch deep into ballgames? We get a tired bullpen and fewer chances to win games as the offense consistently finds itself fighting out of holes early and often. This was the case Sunday when after the first inning the Dodgers were behind 5-0 to the Pittsburgh Pirates in a game the Dodgers eventually lost 11-3.
Between great managing by Dave Roberts, screwed front office moves, a little luck in the San Francisco Giants losing games when the Dodgers do, the Dodgers playing some of their best baseball this year, and bringing a high-octane offense to the ballpark, the team finds itself one game back of first place.
What is the next ingredient? The Dodgers need healthy starting pitching.
Clayton Kershaw may return by September 1, 2016, just in time for the last month push into the playoffs. In the meantime and foreseeable future, one such candidate is stud starting pitcher Jose De Leon.
De Leon is 24-years-old (four years older than Julio Urias) and pitched more than 100 innings in 2015. He is the second ranked prospect in the Dodgers farm system. He is currently playing at Triple-A Oklahoma City.
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Here is his scouting report from Dodgers.com:
“Julio Urias and De Leon give the Dodgers the best lefty-righty combo of pitching prospects in baseball, not something that would have been expected when the latter signed for $35,000 as a 24th-round pick out of Southern in 2013 and recorded a 6.96 ERA in his pro debut. He started to break out in late 2014, when he was named Rookie-level Pioneer League Pitcher of the Year and broke Clayton Kershaw’s low Class A Great Lakes single-game strikeout record with 14. De Leon took another huge step forward in 2015, when he led the Minors with 12.8 strikeouts per nine innings and reached Double-A.
De Leon’s stuff significantly improved in pro ball after he upgraded his conditioning and mechanics. He works at 92-94 mph and can reach 96 mph with his fastball, which has riding life. De Leon’s changeup progressed so much in 2015 that it has become his best secondary pitch, and he also has a low-80s slider that’s effective.
De Leon’s control and command also have gotten better since he signed. He has gone from an unknown to a potential No. 2 starter in two years, and he may not need much more time in the Minors. Though he has missed time in 2016 with an ankle injury and shoulder inflammation, he has maintained a similar strikeout rate while making the jump to Triple-A.”
The 6′ 2″, 190 lb. right-hander (RHP) from Puerto Rico is also on the Top 100 Prospects (#39) and Top 10 RHP Prospects (#7). His estimated time of arrival is this season and the current set of circumstances, injuries and need of available starting pitching, may be setting the stage for his role to be played soon for the Dodgers.
Interestingly, De Leon’s early season injuries have placed him in a prime position to be promoted and showcase his stuff as early as this week. Where Julio Urias will be shut down shortly as he reaches his innings limit, De Leon has only thrown 64.2 innings this year.
The injury bug hit early and it was actually a blessing in disguise. He could easily, should he continue to perform at a high level, have four-five starts in September with the Dodgers, and pitch into the playoffs without pitching more than his career high 114.1 innings pitched last season (2015).
Effort is clearly not the issue with the Dodgers as McCarthy and Anderson are as disappointed as anyone with their inability to stay healthy and pitch longer into games. Clearly, the Dodgers need a boost. That boost is Jose De Leon.
In case you doubt whether Jose De Leon can perform at a high level with the Dodgers, consider the following facts:
Jose De Leon has more quality starts in July and August 2016 than any other current or disabled Dodgers starting pitcher.
“A quality start is a game in which the starting pitcher pitches six or more innings and allows three runs or fewer. The implication is that a quality start allows his team a much better than even chance to win the game and is a credit to the starting pitcher, whether he ends up with a win, a loss, or a no-decision for his efforts.”
In July and August 2016, De Leon has thrown 6.1, 5.2, 8, 1.1, 7, 6, and 7 innings. Would that not be nice in the Dodgers rotation?
Jose De Leon has pitched terrifically despite playing in the “Hitters Paradise” otherwise called the Pacific Coast League.
In 13 games and 64.2 innings pitched, De Leon has a 3.20 ERA (well below his 3.52 career ERA), 78 strikeouts, 20 walks, a .209 batting average against, and a 1.08 WHIP (walks + hits, divided by innings pitched). Still not impressed, consider these ballpark and league factors.
First, from 2008-2013, the Pacific Coast League (PCL) was fifth among all minor leagues in runs scored and near or at the top in many offensive categories. Per “X-Factors: Triple-A ballpark effects, Examining International, Pacific Coast League environments” by Ashley Marshall with MiLB.com (February 3, 2014):
“PCL games . . . average more than half a run more per game due to higher batting averages and greater home run rates, in spite of some teams’ decisions to fight the dry air and high elevations with Coors Field-esque humidors.”
Second, the PCL and the Dodgers Triple-A affiliate Oklahoma City, where Jose De Leon pitches many of his games, was listed among ballparks that helped hitters the most by Matt Eddy via Baseball America (“Ballparks that Helped—And Hurt—Hitters Most,” April 2, 2015).
Third, in “The Baseballist: Most Extreme Ballparks In The Minors” by Matt Eddy via Baseball America (April 2, 2015), he wrote:
“People view the Pacific Coast League as a hitter’s paradise, and with good reason. Triple-A Las Vegas (172) and Albuquerque (169) out-homered all but three major league teams in 2014—the Orioles, Rockies and Blue Jays—despite playing a shorter, 144-game schedule. In fact, more home runs were hit per 100 plate appearances in the PCL last year (2.46) than in the big leagues (2.28), and the league’s isolated slugging percentage (.152) was higher than any league at the Double-A, Triple-A or big league level.
However, the unique conditions of the PCL—high altitude, low humidity, fast infields, spacious outfields—make it just as conducive for base hits as home runs. (The same is true of the California and Pioneer leagues.) Balls hit in the field of play—so that excludes home runs—fell in for hits for a .331 average* in the PCL last year, the highest rate in full-season ball.
The PCL ballparks that most drove that BABIP [batting average on balls in play] northward were Salt Lake (.357), Colorado Springs (.355), Reno (.352), Albuquerque (.351), Las Vegas (.351), El Paso (.349), Oklahoma City (.333) and Round Rock (.330). Those averages count home games only, and those eight teams all ranked inside the top 20 overall for BABIP in the full-season minors. Among big league ballparks, only Coors Field comes close to featuring as many hits on balls in play. The three-year BABIP in Denver is .336, with a single-season high of .345 in 2012.”
The ballpark factors have not changed significantly this year. With the above in mind, imagine how good De Leon really is when context is made clearer. Imagine Jose De Leon pitching in Dodger Stadium a place known to be friendly to pitchers.
Dodger Stadium is a “Pitchers Paradise” prime for Jose De Leon’s style of dominance
“Dodger Stadium walls are higher than most. Center field is deep and the ballpark averages less than two home runs per game nearly every season.”
ESPN.com Senior Writer Tristan H. Cockcroft ranked Dodger Stadium as one of the worst ballparks for hitters in his February 17, 2016 article entitled “Park Factors: Which parks are most, least favorable for hitters?”:
“Dodger Stadium has been renowned as a pitchers’ park, and while it is one, don’t mistake that for its being a poor home-run venue. It is actually neutral to slightly above average in that regard, and more advantageous for left- than right-handed hitters. But one thing that makes this such a pitching-friendly environment is that Dodger Stadium is the game’s worst venue for walks (0.894 factor); that number means it’s significantly worse for hitters and significantly better for pitchers.”
Per Rick Weiner with Bleacher Report in “Ranking MLB’s Most Pitcher-Friendly Ballparks, by the Numbers:”
“Dodger Stadium remains one of the toughest places to thrive offensively.”
Needless to say, Jose De Leon will be a great and at the least, a healthy addition to the Los Angeles Dodgers starting rotation when we consider his recent performance, track record for success in the pitching-challenged ballparks of the Pacific Coast League, and the pitching-friendly confines of Chavez Ravine, aka, Dodger Stadium.
The keys to success for De Leon will be to keep the ball down in the zone and inside the ballpark to left-handed hitters. Hopefully, Director of Talent Andrew Friedman and Producer Dave Roberts will let the kid in the picture soon.
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