Revisiting Red Sox Rubby De La Rosa

Red Sox prospect Rubby De La Rosa is in pitching purgatory. Fully healthy since late in the 2012 season, the right-hander with an electric fastball is nowhere to be found on 25-man roster projections. I don’t expect this to last long since De La Rosa has the arsenal to force his way onto the staff. For now, however, the Dominican will be forced to wait his turn.

It seems like an eternity ago, but De La Rosa’s debut in Dodger blue was impressive. His 3.55 xFIP in 60 2/3 innings included ratios of nearly a strikeout per inning and ground ball rate approaching 50-percent. He walked too many batters — A carry over from Double-A, but De La Rosa was only 22. Time and ability was on his side.

De La Rosa did pitch with effort to touch the upper-90’s though. This, and a hard slider eventually caught up to him. Tommy John surgery was a set back, but De La Rosa returned quickly and was ready to log innings at the time of his being dealt. However, he did not clear waivers and had to be included as a PTBNL. This caused him to be shut down and held in limbo until the trade could be completed.

Based on my belief a healthy De La Rosa is an impact pitcher, the Red Sox off-season was a bit surprising. The team added Ryan Dempster (3.77 xFIP), Joel Hanrahan (4.28 xFIP) and Koji Uehara (2.67 xFIP) to revamp a pitching staff with few open spots to begin with.

Depending on which depth chart you use, Junichi Tazawa (1.82 xFIP), Andrew Miller (3.17 xFIP) and Franklin Morales (4.39 xFIP) were left on the outside looking in after slotting new roster additions. This leaves the Red Sox with 14 viable pitchers for 11 spots without considering what’s on the farm.

Depth charts also concede a roster spot to Daniel Bard who is receiving a mulligan for the reliever-to-starter debacle and his 5.95 xFIP.

So what about De La Rosa? A fair knock is his never having thrown more than 110 1/3 innings in a season. This makes it difficult to envision him seizing a starting role due to expected innings limits — Especially with John Lackey as the projected fifth starter.

The right-hander was once considered a quality starter resulting in a 15.25 million dollar contract in 2013. As Lackey returns from Tommy John, his contract will afford him as much, if not more opportunity than performance on the field.

Inning-for-inning, it would not surprise me if De La Rosa out pitches Lackey, Felix Doubront and even Clay Buchholz in spring training. If a starting pitcher happens to succumb to injury, then De La Rosa should be first in line. If capped at 150 innings, he’d be valuable as a fifth starter who could have a start skipped every once in awhile and transition to a bullpen role later in the season.

After all, this tweaked Red Sox ball club is coming off a miserable 93-loss 2012. Wins in April and May are important at a time when the organization needs to decide whether or not to cash in the Jacoby Ellsbury chip.

De La Rosa would fit in nicely as a relief option, but the team is chock full of bullpen arms who are, or have been good. As a long reliever, De La Rosa would be able to stretch his arm out in longer stints, but Alfredo Aceves is the perfect jack of all trades pitcher to keep around.

Late in games, Andrew Bailey and Hanrahan have closer experience. Uehara and Tazawa were two of the more effective right-handed relievers in baseball in 2012. A pair of lefties from the trio of Craig Breslow, Andrew Miller and Franklin Morales will also make the team. Not to mention Daniel Bard whose success in 2010-2011 were dominant enough to warrant a shot at the rotation.

On the surface, it’s easy to state a 69-win team is better with Rubby De La Rosa as a member of its pitching staff than without. In the current Boston rotation, De La Rosa would be an upgrade. Due to acquisitions and established pitchers derailed due to injury or role change, I’m unable to find a clear path for De La Rosa to contribute early in 2013 even though he possesses one of the top arms in the organization.

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Mike Newman is the Owner/Managing Editor ofROTOscouting, a subscription site focused on baseball scouting, baseball prospects and fantasy baseball. Follow me onTwitter. Likeus on Facebook.Subscribeto my YouTube Channel.

26 Responses to “Revisiting Red Sox Rubby De La Rosa”

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  1. dtf_in_dtl says:

    Did you write this before this little gem came out?

    Bard / Acceves / Tazawa all have options. Baring injuries in spring training (because those never happen), I see 2 if not all three being in the minors to start the year. I could also see Acceves shipped out of town to a team who would stash him in the minors for a lottery ticket. Because of upside, I’d rather see Morales as the swing man anyways.

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    • KyleL says:

      Aceves gets pissy about not having a more important major league role, I can’t imagine they’d even bother sending him down, if he’s gone (and he should be) it will be in a trade. Bard might start out in the minors, but I think they’ll give him every chance to be the last man to make the ‘pen, just based on all the success he’s had in the past. And Tazawa was their best reliever last year, there’s no way they stick him in the minors simply because he has options.

      I think it’s far more likely that all three are on the team than all of them, or even two of them, starting out in AAA.

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      • Mike Newman says:

        I hadn’t read the piece on Aceves since I focuse more on MILB. Interesting stuff though. Because of his versatility, he has always been a favorite of mine.

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    • jim08 says:

      Tazawa and Aceves starting 2013 in AAA? You’re kidding yourself.

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  2. brian says:

    Tazawa is probably the best current reliever on the Red Sox, his stuff was electric last year. Aceves isn’t good and he hasn’t been professional in a long time, I can’t imagine that organization catering to a non-elite problem child reliever after all they’ve been through. They would still have Morales as the long reliever/spot starter option, and the long reliever isn’t that important with an 8 man pen and 5 other viable options in case injuries strike. Miller is another easy trade candidate, with Clay Mortensen being the easiest (and least valuable). Bard probably starts in the minors, and Alex Wilson is another candidate.

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    • Mike Newman says:

      Yes, I definitely see Tazawa playing a prominent role in the pen. They do have a deep staff considering their struggles last season. I know much of that was due to an insane amount of injuries, but still.

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  3. Alex says:

    Why would De La Rosa be an upgrade? All Boston starters have pitched better up to this point in their careers, and De La Rosa hasn’t been around the league yet to establish himself.

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  4. Mr Punch says:

    Agree with Alex. All the Sox pitchers have “shown something” in the majors, and more than Rubby – but then the rotation was also good on paper last year. The question is who will be good now, and the answer is that we have no idea. Having talent in Pawtucket is a good thing under the circumstances.

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    • YanksFanInBeantown says:

      With the exception of Lester, they’ve also all shown themselves to be a bunch of retreads and/or mediocre pitchers.

      Rubby might be great and that’s more than can be said for anyone else in Boston’s rotation.

      Seeing as how they aren’t going to compete this year anyway, they might as well let the kid who might have a future on the team pitch.

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      • redsoxu571 says:

        Clay Buchholz posted a 2.33 era in 2010 in 28 starts…if he does not qualify as someone who “might be great”, I’d really like to know how you define the word, because you seem to be speaking a different language than I.

        Oh, and John Lackey put up a 127 ERA+ while averaging 198 innings per season in the five seasons before he came to Boston. While we all doubt whether he will ever be that pitcher again, he’s been “almost great” before, and clearly his elbow was part of the problem with his Boston pitching. You’re really so sure that he can’t be a good pitcher again for a season or two?

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        • YanksFanInBeantown says:

          Lackey’s 34 years old. Personally, I’d bet against him improving on his age 32 season coming off of Tommy John surgery.

          And yes, if Clay Buchholz once again manages to halve his HR/9 rate and lower his BABIP 20 points from his career averages he could certainly be a productive pitcher in this league, but his career numbers look a lot more like a pitcher who misses a below average number of bats, allows an above average number of walks and gives up an above average number of home runs who got lucky with his HR/FB% and his BABIP in 2010.

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        • YanksFanInBeantown says:

          Sorry, Lackey’s age 31 season

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    • Mike Newman says:

      Many guys have “shown something” over the course of a career. Stuff changes, as does a pitcher’s value over time. Inning for inning, I believe RDLR will be more effective than other pitchers in their starting rotation based on the RDLR I’ve seen in person and the numbers he posted with LAD pre-injury.

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  5. Dan Greer says:

    Anecdotally, don’t they say that it takes 2 full seasons to completely recover (specifically command) after TJ surgery? de la Rosa can’t necessarily be expected to better or even match his 2011 performance right away. He’ll be fine as AAA depth until a spot opens up, and I don’t think that would be a poor decision by the F.O.

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    • Mike Newman says:

      From speaking with Dave Laurila who covers the Red Sox extensively, RDLR has reported feeling much stronger than he did last August. Pitchers recover at different speeds. Do I worry a bit more about a guy like RDLR who didn’t have elite command prior to the injury? Sure, but two years isn’t set in stone.

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  6. pft says:

    The word in Boston is the Red Sox are going to go slow with Rubby and limit his innings in ST and in the early season in Pawtucket. The reason, as touched on in the article, is he has never pitched more than 110 innings in a season and that was a few years ago.

    Plan is to be able to call him up at mid season and have him ready to go without limitations the rest of the way .

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  7. whitesox67 says:

    I think that Lackey will live up to his name and that Aceves is mentally no longer the jack of all trades, but the jackass whose expectations were elevated by mistake last year.

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  8. james wilson says:

    Aceves plan is to be so obnoxious (his natural condition anyway) that the club will have to pull the plug and release him. He thinks that being a FA, even a tainted one, will give him more options in becoming a starter. It might.

    Too bad. He was great down the stretch in the ’11 collapse. Ace would probably be an ok guy if he had a friend that would give him a serious beating.

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  9. Jim in NC says:

    I’m surprised at the naivete of this whole column. Because of the TJ surgery, and the fact that he could stand to improve his command, the plan to give him only a taste this year and rely on him for 2014 is a good one. Your plan, to forego acquiring more talent and rely on him for 150 innings this year, is completely foolish.

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  10. tommy says:

    How does service time work in Rubby’s case? Does keeping him in the minor to start the year delay FA, or did the 60 innings in 2011 irrevocably start his clock?

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  11. Mike O'Brien says:

    Rubby is a favorite of mine. Webster was touted in the media as the key to the trade for the Red Sox, I was seeing it differently.

    After reading everything I could find, including your THE TOOLS OF MAGNIFICANCE, I started to think maybe De La Rosa will prove to be the real key. My due diligence confirmed the belief and I’ve taken the liberty of posting a quote from this article. Hope you don’t mind.

    “and while De La Rosa lacked command in the upper registers, the one 98 MPH fastball he located belt high on the inner half is seared into my scouting mind as it bored down and in on a right handed hitter to devastating effect. It was the single most dominant pitch I’ve seen live”

    This made my antennae go up and after watching every video and seeing first hand the pitch you so accurately described I knew Rubby was extraordinary. The movement on some of his pitches seem to defy the Laws of Physics where movement is inversely proportional to velocity. At 98mph batters still have hope but when he takes something off they have no chance and this brings me to my point.

    Ruby was at one year post surgery when traded. He was actively pitching at the time but ‘shut down’ as soon as he was traded, maybe at Red Sox insistence. From their perspective, it eliminated possibility of re-injury. From Dodgers perspective, it removed a potential deal breaker. They had nothing to lose with the shut down but the Red Sox sure did.

    This occurred during a time critical to Ruby’s recovery and some common misconceptions about TJS are:
    1) longer healing time leads to more successful recovery
    2) failure is primarily associated with UCL blowout
    Nothing could be further from the truth. Longer healing times are counter productive and contrary to popular belief, a surgically repaired UCL is essentially bulletproof. Failure is more often associated with injury secondary to surgery when a pitcher overcompensates (SEE Lackey in Toronto).

    Aggressive rehab and strict timelines are critical to success which leads me to ask. What was Rubby doing during the shut down? If he did nothing and kicked back for 6 months we may have a problem, not because he wasn’t stretched out when he arrived but rather because he may have lost the ability to ever (emphasis) stretch out to pre-surgical levels and he may have lost the mobility to do so.

    Why is he on a short pitch count in Pawtucket when he should be going all out and pushing himself to the limit. The Red Sox had no control over him while he was still LA property but they do now. Why are they holding him back when they should be pushing him till the wheels fall off. The danger here is not in blowing out the repaired UCL, the danger is with a pitcher who is tentative and afraid of blowout.

    Lackey makes the case. Highly motivated, he worked his butt off in rehab and came back to pitch what was arguably the best baseball of his career in Toronto. As hard as John worked, when he snapped that slider he tweaked a muscle he didn’t know existed and it freaked him. Now he’s tentative and holding back which is costing 3-4mph on his fastball. This is rendering him much less effective and he will be less effective until he walks thru his fear. It will be a damn shame if Lackey holds back now.

    Same applies with Rubby with the difference being that he won’t even be able face his fear unless the Sox unleash him and the sooner the better. WTF are they doing?

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  12. specs says:

    look at how stupid you are

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