Yankees Prospect Profile: Rafael De Paula

USA TODAY Sports

Can De Paula return to early-2013 form after having a lackluster second-half of the season?

Background:

Rafael De Paula signed with the New York Yankees in 2010. The six-foot-two, 212 pound right-handed pitcher hails from La Victoria, Dominican Republic. Following the signing, MLB conducted a 16-month investigation into De Paula's age before finally approving the contract. De Paula made his debut at the age of 21 in the Dominican Summer League in 2012, where he posted a 1.46 ERA, .254 BABIP, 0.86 WHIP and 12.49 K/9 over 61.2 IP.

De Paula is a fastball-heavy pitcher. One scout described it as "an advanced pitch, sinking well, and inducing hitters to pound the ball into the ground." Nathaniel Stoltz over at Fangraphs watched De Paula last season and found his fastball to be inconsistent due to the fact that it sat between 91-94 mph during the first few innings, then dropped to 88-92 during the fourth and fifth inning. The other main pitches that De Paula throws are a slider said to have "ferocious" tilt and an average changeup.

2013 Results:

Low-A Charleston: 2.94 ERA, 2.03 FIP, .305 BABIP, 1.03 WHIP, 13.43 K/9, 3.22 BB/9, 64.1 IP

High-A Tampa: 6.06 ERA, 4.63 FIP, .345 BABIP, 1.71 WHIP, 9.18 K/9, 5.51 BB/9, 49.0 IP

De Paula began the 2013 season with the Charleston RiverDogs, where he got off to a dominant start with opponents only batting .187 against him. He was promoted to Tampa in early June, where he struggled quite a bit. His strikeout rate dropped, his walks increased, and his ERA more than doubled. In July he represented the Yankees at the 2013 Futures Game. He pitched a scoreless inning, though he gave up a single and hit a batter.

2014 Outlook:

De Paula is set to start the season pitching in High-A Tampa, where he will look to bounce back from late season struggles. Stoltz has speculated that the cause for De Paula's second-half struggles could be due to his inexperience pitching in a challenging league (thanks in part to the long delay in getting his contract finalized). Stoltz also noted that the increase in innings pitched between 2012 and 2013 could have caused him to fade during the second half of the season; In 2012 De Paula pitched just 61.2 innings, compared to 113.1 innings in 2013.

It remains to be seen whether De Paula can pitch at a consistent level. Despite the fact that he will turn 23 this season, it is still early in his development program. Steamer's 2014 projections for De Paula are not particularly kind as they predict a 5.03 ERA, 4.81 FIP, 6.43 K/9, and a 1.53 WHIP. Hopefully more experience and increased stamina will help De Paula return to early-2013 form. If this is the case, another dominant start to the season could see him promoted to Trenton (Double-A).

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