Right-handed pitcher Chase De Jong made his debut for the Minnesota Twins on Sunday, throwing four shutout innings against the Kansas City Royals, fanning five and giving up just one hit. He did walk four but he should be in the rotation mix the rest of the season and is a solid rookie candidate for 2019. Let’s take a quick look.
De Jong is new to the Twins system: he was acquired from the Seattle Mariners at the July trade deadline for Zach Duke. He was having a pretty good season in Double-A at the time of the trade (3.80 ERA, 89/34 K/BB in 121 innings) but the Twins assigned him to Triple-A Rochester. This was a good test since De Jong had struggled at the Triple-A and major league levels in 2017.
The Twins made one significant change after the trade: the analytics staff convinced De Jong to stop using his two-seam sinking fastball and concentrate on the four-seamer, according to Mike Berardino with the Pioneer Press. This boosted his strikeout rate and resulted in a solid 3.20 ERA in 39 innings with Rochester, with a 34/12 K/BB, impressive enough to earn a major league trial in September.
The four-seamer isn’t especially fast on the radar, generally 88-92, but it can tail in on right-handers and plays up when his change-up is working, which it has been lately. He also has a slider and an occasional curve but the fastball/change combo is the key to his success.
While De Jong’s track record has been erratic since reaching the high minors he’s looked quite sharp since the post-trade adjustment. He’s got a shot as a command-oriented starter and looks like a sleeper rookie pick entering 2019.