De La Rosa Progressing Nicely

Simon De La Rosa has improved his command

TAMPA, FL - Anyone who watches right-hander Simon De La Rosa pitch can see the top-shelf stuff almost instantly. However, watch him from start to start behind the scenes at Extended Spring Training and the progress being made in the other aspects of his game is palpable.

"This is a kid that has a good arm, is able to mix pitches, and so far he's had a firm command on his fastball," pitching coach Jose Rosado said of standout pitcher Simon De La Rosa.

Not a bad compliment for a pitcher who's only 20 years old.

De La Rosa, a native of Boca Chica, Dominican Republic, has been lauded for his biting fastball and powerful arm. Last season in the Dominican Summer League, De La Rosa compiled a plausible 3.77 ERA with 60 strikeouts over 14 appearances.

Though his statistics are solid, De La Rosa's intangibles are where he draws his highest praise. The Dominican righty stands at an imposing 6-foot-3 and has an abundance of natural power behind his throwing arm. He's also developed a wide array of pitches, giving him the ability to stymie opposing batters with options other than just a heater.

"He's got a good curveball, he can spin the curveball, got a nice changeup under his belt," Rosado said.

All praise aside, there are a few areas in which the Gulf Coast coaching staff think De La Rosa needs growth; his command being the biggest.

"He's got a lot of stuff; it's really just a [matter of] consistency," GCL Yankees manager Travis Chapman said. "It's not necessarily [having] the stuff but being able to control the stuff and throw it whenever you want to."

Statistics also suggest that De La Rosa's command needs improvement, as he averaged nearly three walks per game [33 walks in 14 games last season]. If De La Rosa wants to take the next step he'll need to limit the number of erratic pitches and walks he forfeits per game.

Despite some needed improvement in the control department, De La Rosa felt good about his Extended Spring Training [which ends next week] so far and is determined to prove he's ready for the next step.

"It's been good, really great," De La Rosa said of his Spring Training through a translator. "Mental toughness has definitely been the biggest challenge. I want to be focused on the game plan and not get distracted or rattled because I let up a walk. The coaches have been helping me a lot with that."

For a young player just entering the league, mental toughness is a valuable commodity. All the skill in the world is meaningless if an athlete is unable to hone their abilities through mental fortitude.

Various scouts have praised De La Rosa for his advanced maturity and cite that his fastball has been clocked as high as 96 mph. Among De La Rosa's arsenal of weapons is an above average curveball with a tight spin and a solid changeup, two good second options to his overpowering fastball.

When asked about his best achievement thus far, De La Rosa immediately had one word in mind: "Focus."

"I've been more focused to keep my head in the game," he said. "I'm just making one pitch at a time, one game at a time."

Chapman agrees and has been monitoring De La Rosa's progress closely.

"It's all about hard work and his stuff's there. He's a good kid and working hard will pay off for him," he said.

According to Rosado, De La Rosa has improved leaps and bounds since the start of camp.

"At times he tried to do too much, but he's calmed down. He's making a good pitch one at a time and has been more consistent," Rosado said. "He's focused so he can move up."

A notable example of De La Rosa's passion for improvement was an instance last year in the Dominican Summer League. In a game against the Mets, De La Rosa lasted only two innings, giving up seven earned runs and three walks in the process.

The game inflated his ERA to a whopping 31.50. Rather than letting the game derail him, De La Rosa used his aforementioned mental toughness to battle back, going the next five games without a single earned run. He also racked up 27 strikeouts during that five game stretch.

Simon De La Rosa still has a lot of growing to do, but what 20 year old prospect doesn't? If he continues to revamp his consistency and make his fastball deadlier than it already is, De La Rosa will be seen as one of the biggest steals in the minors, as he signed for only $50,000.

Among the coaching staff, De La Rosa has made an excellent first impression. Coach Rosado believes his command will ultimately define how much he progresses in the next few years.

"For right now, he's just focusing on that fastball command. That will help him to get those other pitches around the strike zone. I'd like to see him maintain his command and continue to progress," Rosado said.

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