Rafael De Paula Shows Big League Potential

When our other prospect writers submit scouting reports, I will provide a short background and industry consensus tool grades.  There are two reasons for this: 1) giving context to account for the writer seeing a bad outing (never threw his changeup, coming back from injury, etc.) and 2) not making him go on about the player’s background or speculate about what may have happened in other outings.

The writer still grades the tools based on what they saw, I’m just letting the reader know what he would’ve seen in many other games from this season, particularly with young players that may be fatigued late in the season. The grades are presented as present/future on the 20-80 scouting scale and very shortly I’ll publish a series going into more depth explaining these grades.   -Kiley

Rafael De Paula, RHP, Lake Elsinore Storm (Padres, High-A – most recently viewed 8/17 at Rancho)

De Paula was infamous for years as one of the poster children for age/identity fraud and the accompanying MLB suspension, with multiple false starts to his career.  He signed with the Yankees for $500,000 in November 2010, months before he turned 20 and after years of  seven figure buzz.  De Paula couldn’t get a visa due to these paperwork issues, so he didn’t play anywhere in 2011 and began his career in 2012, but he wasn’t challenged as he was a 21 year old in the DSL facing teenagers.  De Paula was known during his teenage years for being a power arm up to 95 mph with a hard breaking ball  and I saw this a few times while he wasn’t eligible to sign but would workout with July 2 eligible kids in the Dominican.  He’s since changed as a prospect because his feel to spin a breaking ball has been gone for a few years and his changeup has since emerged as his main secondary pitch. 

Fastball: 55/60, Curveball: 40/45, Changeup: 50/55, Command: 40/50   -Kiley

In my second look at Rafael De Paula, the newly acquired Padres farmhand struggled in terms of results, but still showed similar strengths and weaknesses in comparison to my initial viewing.

Fastball: 60/70

In my second look at De Paula, he once again showed an ability to consistently pitch with a plus fastball that features above-average life on it throughout the course of his outing. However, it was a tough start for the 23-year-old old as his oddly good fastball command in my initial viewing had eluded him this time around on the rubber.

Seemingly easing himself into the game, De Paula effortlessly sat 91 mph in the early going. But things changed quickly after he allowed back-to-back home runs on misplaced fastballs. The righty became frustrated with himself and decided ramp things up to 94-95 mph to escape the inning, but subsequently lost his feel for the strike-zone as a result of doing so. He would settle in at the 92-93 mph range for the rest of his outing, touching 94 mph in his final inning of work.

De Paula’s plus present fastball grade is indicative of his velocity and life on the offering, but he does lack consistent downhill plane due to the angles he creates with his inconsistently wide three-quarters arm slot. The future grade is representative of De Paula pitching out of the bullpen, where he will be able to sit in the mid-90s instead of just flashing it as a starter.

Curveball: 40/45

De Paula will often get on the side of his breaking ball, creating sweeping break and the illusion of a slider. It comes in at curveball speed, however, anywhere from 78-81 mph, and with loose two-plane break. In both of my looks, De Paula showed the least amount of consistency and feel for his breaking ball when compared to the rest of his arsenal. He did snap off a few workable breakers in my second look, but it didn’t occur until facing the final two batters of his start.

Changeup: 45/50

De Paula’s changeup is his best secondary offering, but he didn’t throw it too often in my second look. He shows feel for the offering by showing manipulation for it and maintaining his arm sped. The pitch comes in at 86-88 mph, so it lacks velocity separation in comparison to his fastball, but features late fading action. It’s his weapon of choice against same and opposite-sided batters, but doesn’t project to be an an out pitch at the highest level.

Command: 40/50

As aforementioned, De Paula unexpectedly showed fastball command in my initial look, spotting arm side with relative ease. However, he showed 30-grade command overall in my second look, so I’m splitting the difference for now. The delivery isn’t great, but he’s able to work with it despite parts of it flying in opposite directions.

The front side is a bit awkward; he seems to ignore his lead arm without rotating his front side. As a result, the backside overcompensates because De Paula stops rotating his front hip. While there’s momentum towards home plate on leg lift, the stride almost seems to abruptly land short. The landing leg then becomes stiff and his front foot will finish closed to home plate. The arm action isn’t fluid nor clean and it takes a long time to get through the throwing motion, but a fast arm will (and does) certainly help make up for that.


As a starter, De Paula is showing a plus fastball with life and a changeup that could reach solid-average. The lack of a breaking ball at this point in his development makes me skeptical that he will be able to make a jump in that area, so the signs then point towards a bullpen role. While it could be a 70-grade fastball in short, one-inning bursts, the lack of a wipeout secondary pitch makes me put a future seventh inning, middle reliever’s role.

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