Sunday, July 10, 2016

Former Southern star Jose De Leon rising from 24th-round pick to top prospect

Deceptive fastball, knock-out changeup keeping hitters at bay

OKLAHOMA CITY, Oklahoma -- For a pitcher selected in the 24th round from Southern University in 2013, Jose De Leon finds himself being handled like a high-pick bonus baby by the Los Angeles Dodgers of late.

De Leon had an ankle sprain in March that was considered minor, yet he went through extended spring training and didn’t make his Triple-A debut with Oklahoma City until May 4. He “felt something” in his right, pitching shoulder after a start, was placed on the disabled list on May 16 and wasn’t activated until June 7.

“He was just another guy in the organization who could pitch when he was drafted,” Oklahoma City pitching coach Matt Herges. “He made himself into ‘the guy.’ It made us say, ‘OK, we have something here. Let’s keep him healthy.’ So really, it’s just him getting the innings under his belt to where he can handle a major league work load.”

Stunningly, De Leon has become the No. 2 prospect in the Los Angeles organization. The top prospect — Julio Urias, the No. 1 pitching prospect in baseball — is already with the Dodgers, having been called up May 27.

De Leon said his rise began during his second professional season, in 2015. He’d done well in his first year in the Rookie League and Class A. But the next year, in Advanced A with Rancho Cucamunga, he had a 1.67 ERA with 58 strikeouts in 37.2 innings in going 4-1. Promoted to the Double A Tulsa Drillers, he struck out 105 in 76.2 innings over 16 games with a 3.64 ERA.


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