Top pitching prospect Jose De Leon will arrive today from AAA Oklahoma City in anticipation of his major-league debut for the Dodgers on Sunday, according to basically everybody.
#Dodgers have called up Jose De Leon. He is expected to arrive tomorrow.
— Bill Shaikin (@BillShaikin) September 2, 2016
— J.P. Hoornstra (@jphoornstra) September 2, 2016
Dave Roberts confirms that @JDL_87 will start for Dodgers on Sunday.
— Dodger Insider (@DodgerInsider) September 2, 2016
This shouldn’t be surprising at all, but in a way it is. The Dodgers have literally been the most injured team in history, and yet De Leon still has been waiting for his chance, presumably due to both a 40-man roster crunch and questions about whether his stuff was all the way back from early-season injuries. Just a couple weeks ago, Dustin wrote that De Leon was a long shot to be promoted due to the mess on the 40-man roster, and it made sense to me.
The Dodgers have 48 players on the 40-man roster — meaning, there are eight players on the 60-day disabled list. Because of that, they don’t officially count toward the 40-man roster limit. The eight players are Andre Ethier, Yimi Garcia, Chris Hatcher, Clayton Kershaw, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Trayce Thompson, Chin-hui Tsao and Alex Wood. Of the eight, only one is a guy the Dodgers would remove from the roster is Tsao. The other seven are guys who would not be designated for assignment to make room for De Leon. And some of these guys are slated to come back in September (namely Kershaw and Wood), meaning there’s not a lot of roster flexibility to add De Leon.
All of that is still true, and I’m not sure what that means for either the 40-man roster situation or even the comebacks of Ethier, Kershaw, Thompson, or Wood. What I do know is that De Leon may have simply forced the Dodgers hand in the matter.
De Leon has been great in AAA, putting up a 2.61 ERA over 86.1 innings in 16 starts, striking out a whopping 111 while only walking 20. But it’s his last four starts that have been particularly impressive, as he’s gone over seven innings in every one of them, which is something that’s basically completely foreign to Dodgers fans in 2016. In those four starts, he’s struck out 40 and walked just one in 28.1 innings, surrendering only four runs for a 1.26 ERA.
De Leon’s immaculate inning has been shared around…
…but this strikeout is probably more representative of his arsenal.
In any case, if the Dodgers were on the fence about whether they could designate enough players off the 40-man roster to make room for him, his recent run would’ve convinced them even a few starts might be worth it in this tight divisional race, and so he’s making his debut on Sunday against the Padres.
While there have been concerns from earlier about his stuff, Vince Lara-Cinisomo of Baseball America doesn’t seem too worried.
While he transformed his body, the biggest change—pardon the pun—the past two seasons for De Leon has been the improvement of his changeup. It’s at least a plus pitch—with some evaluators stamping it as a plus-plus offering—and one that gets batters off-balance and garners several swings and misses.
This year, however, De Leon’s fastball has again taken center stage. He can touch 95 mph with it when he needs, but most often sits 92-93 with tremendous spin rate and great, late life. He throws it to all quadrants and without elite velocity gets swings and misses, even when in what is generally considered a hitter’s hot zone. His slider is an average-to-tick-above pitch, with tight spin and three-quarters action.
Hopefully that’s exactly what he brings to the table on Sunday.
There’s an adjustment period for any rookie, so expecting De Leon to do what he did in his recent AAA outings is unfair. Yet, this is the middle of a playoff race, and the Dodgers clearly think he’s an upgrade and ready for what’s to come. Personally, I’m not quite sure what to expect in his debut, but regardless, I’m excited to see him pitch in a Dodgers uniform and also for what’s to come from him going forward.