After an incredible 2015 season, Dodgers pitching prospect Jose De Leon is putting up even better numbers; but is he ready for the call-up to the bigs?
Jose De Leon started the 2016 season in AAA, an appropriate spot for the 24-year old following his incredible 2015 campaign. In 2015, De Leon posted a 2.99 ERA to go along with out-of-this-world strikeouts per 9 of 12.8. Putting that number in perspective is easy, only five pitchers in the MLB last year owner a K/9 above 10. Even more impressive, De Leon combined that high strikeout rate with a low walk rate of 2.9. It was obvious that the Dodgers had something in De Leon, but would a promotion to AAA for the 2016 season cause his numbers to drop?
De Leon has picked up right where he left off in 2015, dominating the AAA level. Amongst starters in the Pacific League with at least ten games started, De Leon is ranked 3rd in ERA with a 2.86. De Leon is also 2nd in WHIP, sporting a 0.98 in that category. If you are a Dodgers fan, you have to love what De Leon is showing us so far. He has improved this year in almost every category, and his strikeout rate is still being maintained at an even higher level. De Leon’s strikeouts have dropped to 11.2 per 9, but that is to be expected when someone makes the jump to a higher level.
After everything shown above, it seems evident that De Leon is ready. However, are the Dodgers willing to make the move? The obvious question is there, and I am sure you guys are all itching to ask it, “But Andrew, have you seen our DL?” The answer is yes, yes I have. The Dodgers currently have seven, yes seven (!) starting pitchers on the disabled list. Instead of rattling off the guys on the list, it is just easier to say who is not on the list. Their current starting rotation is Kenta Maeda, Rich Hill, Bud Norris, and Julio Urias. Ross Stripling was recently called up on Tuesday to make the start against San Francisco on Thursday, so it is fair to say that he is the fifth man in the rotation.
Going back to the question that is posted above regarding our DL, it is just not that simple. The Dodgers are aware of De Leon’s domination, I mean how can they not be? The kid is posting excellent numbers of late, including a near no-hitter on Monday. However, with all of these injuries, the 40-man roster is just too clogged up for De Leon to fit anywhere. Removing someone off of the 40-man is not very simple, as anyone removed who is not outright released must clear waivers to go to the minors. So because of this, the Dodgers would have to deem De Leon that valuable to run the risk of losing someone on the 40-man.
For me, there is a short list of players that I think makes sense. Carlos Frias seems the most obvious choice to me, as his future with this club seems dim. Frias is currently underperforming in AAA right now would only give depth to this club as an extra starter or bullpen help when the rosters expand in September. Waiting for the expansion of rosters will not make things different either, as that is just an enlargement of the active-MLB roster to the entire 40-man.
Jose De Leon has done everything right this season to show his proven worth for the present and future of the Dodgers. However, due to the extensive injury plague that the Dodgers are facing, they seem hesitant to move De Leon to the major league level. It will be a wait-and-see thing, but there is no doubt in my mind that he is ready to hit the big leagues.