Late Monday the Los Angeles Dodgers traded right-handed pitching prospect Jose De Leon to the Tampa Bay Rays for second baseman Logan Forsythe. De Leon had also been the centerpiece of a rumored trade to the Minnesota Twins for Brian Dozier, but when that fell through Los Angeles switch targets to Forsythe and found a trade match with the Rays.
De Leon ranked Number One on the recent Minor League Ball Top 20 Dodgers prospects for 2017 list, with the following quick breakdown:
1) Jose De Leon, RHP, Grade A/A-: Age 24, 24th round pick in 2013 from Southern University; posted 2.61 ERA in 86 innings in Triple-A with 111/20 K/BB and 61 hits; 6.35 ERA in 17 MLB innings with 15/7 K/BB; fastball 90-95, showed pinpoint location with it in Triple-A; mixes in plus change-up; breaking ball looked plus to me in Triple-A but was less impressive in majors; his stock is down a bit with some analysts but I still see him as an elite prospect due to superior command of three quality pitches and excellent performance record; number two or strong number three starter assuming continued good health. ETA 2017.
To flesh that out a bit, De Leon was excellent in Triple-A, no easy feat in the heavy-offense Pacific Coast League, showing three plus pitches at his best with superior command and control. During his major league trial he looked more tentative, particularly with his breaking ball, although he did maintain a solid strikeout pace.
Despite his performance in the minors he is not universally-regarded as a top flight prospect: some highly-respected analysts view him as more of a number four starter than a dominator, with Eric Longenhagen at Fangraphs a prominent example. Eric isn't the only one; other evaluators have cooled slightly as well.
I am more optimistic and can see him being a number two, provided he stays healthy. That's a significant caveat as he missed time with a sore shoulder last year and has never thrown more than 115 innings in a season. A true rotation anchor has to handle a larger workload of course, and it remains to be seen if De Leon can do that.
Overall, a healthy De Leon is one of the top pitching prospects in baseball and the Rays should be a good environment for him. But can he stay healthy?