Little has gone right for the Los Angeles Dodgers this season. The club is periously close to last place in the NL West standings, has uncertain finances and has featured more marital acrimony than an episode of Judge Judy. But one bright spot for L.A. is the pitching of rookie right-hander Rubby De La Rosa.
Signed out of the Dominican Republic back in 2007, De La Rosa once sat in the high-80s with his fastball and was Dee Gordon-level skinny. But, as Baseball America's Jim Shonerd explained in the 2011 Prospect Handbook, De La Rosa's velocity has since shot through the roof:
De la Rosa weighed 130 pounds and threw 89-91 mph when he signed for $15,000 as an 18-year-old. Since getting on a proper diet, he has added 40 pounds of quality weight and fueled his breakout with a fastball that lights up radar guns. He pitches at 95-96 mph and registered as high as 102 mph at Great Lakes. He's capable of holding that velocity deep into games and finding an extra gear when he needs it.
True to the scouting report, De La Rosa's fastball is lighting up the radar guns in the majors. The 22-year-old has thrown his heater at an average of 95.2 MPH, besting Justin Verlander by the slighest of margins for the highest velocity among starting pitchers. And that extra gear? De La Rosa has topped out at 99.8 MPH.
That high-octane fastball has produced plenty of swings and misses. Here is De La Rosa's opponent contact rate against his fastball by pitch location, compared to the league average:
When opponents aren't whiffing on De La Rosa's fastball, they're chopping it into the grass: his ground ball rate with the pitch is 54 percent, compared to the 43 percent league average. Overall, batters have a .213 batting average, a .310 on-base percentage and a .307 slugging percentage against De La Rosa's cheddar. That's miles ahead of the .270/.349/.423 league average.
De La Rosa still has work to do to become a more well-rounded pitcher: he has thrown his fastball nearly 80 percent of the time, and his slider and changeup haven't especially effective. But if he can pair one of the game's most dominant fastballs with improved secondary stuff, the Dodgers could have a right-handed complement to lefty Clayton Kershaw at the front of the rotation.