If you were to take a look at the top ten prospect list for the New York Yankees, chances are you would be a little confused as to who sits at number ten. Rafael De Paula is a player that some people may have never heard of, but promises to one day become a household name. There’s a reason that he’s on the list, and it’s a good one at that.
De Paula was signed by the Yankees in 2010, but he didn’t play in the Yankees’s system until 2012. Visa issues were to blame for the delay in the evolution of this young right-hander. Once everything was all settled, De Paula got to work in the Dominican Summer League – and work he did. He started 14 games for the Dominican Yankees, posing a record of 8-2 with a 1.46 ERA. In around 61 innings pitched, De Paula struck out 85 hitters, and walked only 18. He also posted a WHIP of .86, which if you don’t know, is really good.
But it is just the Dominican Summer League, most of the hitters there will never amount to anything, right?
Well De Paula’s performance last season ended up getting him a promotion to the Single-A Charleston River Dogs, where he has been since the onset of the 2013 campaign. In Charleston, De Paula has shown few signs of diminished ability. He has started six games so far for the River Dogs, and currently has a record of 2-2 with an ERA of 2.96. What’s impressive about De Paula so far is that he is actually striking out batters in Single-A than he was in the DSL. He’s striking out close to two batters per inning with Charleston, whereas he only struck out a little over one batter per inning in the Dominican. If we were to increase that statistic to a nine inning scale, then it would be 15.1 K/9 in Charleston, and 12.4 K/9 in the DSL. A much bigger difference between the two years.
The scouting report on him tells us that he has a fastball that sits in the low to mid 90s, but can be dialed up to around 97 mph. He has a plus curveball with really good movement, and throws a slider and changeup that will get better as he develops. Scouts also rave about the movement and control on his pitches, which probably attribute to the high strikeout totals. Scouts project that De Paula, if he develops fully, can easily be a top-of-the-rotation pitcher, with his ceiling even being as high as becoming the ace of the pitching staff.
Certainly something to get excited about, I’ll say.
De Paula is currently 22 years old, and has all the talent to be in Double-A Trenton by year’s end. If all goes well, I would say that an ETA in the Bronx would be 2015.