Name: Jose DePaula
DOB: March 4, 1990
Signed as an international free agent, DePaula made his professional debut in the Dominican Summer League during 2007. He went 2-5 with a 2.44 ERA, striking out 78 and walking 21 across 66.1 innings while holding the opposition to a .208 average.
Working through the 2008 season as an 18-year-old, DePaula continued the upward trend in the Arizona Rookie League. He made 13 starts, going 4-3 with a 3.57 ERA. In 53 innings he struck out 56 while walking only nine. Left-handed hitters were limited to a .238 average while righties clubbed .300 off him.
DePaula got off to a slow start, posting a 6.52 ERA across his first six starts. Over his next seven, the southpaw notched a 1.87 ERA, allowing two earned runs or less in all but one of those outings. His 2.09 FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) led the team and was fourth best in the league. His 9.51 strikeouts per nine innings and strikeout-to-walk ratio of 6.22-to-1 also placed fifth in the circuit.
Coming into 2009, he worked harder than ever before to realize his potential. Knowing that people were expecting big things, DePaula put in the extra work.
He came out to short-season Eugene as one of the anchors of the rotation but made just two starts. With only 9.2 innings thrown, his season was about to end. He allowed three earned over that span while striking out 10. The elbow pain flared, and he could do nothing to remedy the situation before the season concluded. He was on his way back in July, throwing off the mound at roughly 75 percent efficiency but ended up having a small setback that required more rest. He was sent down to Arizona to continue his rehabilitation but never saw action in another game.
DePaula ended up having a stress fracture in his elbow and had a screw inserted to provide his arm better stability. He began a throwing program in January and should be ready to throw off a mound sometime during Spring Training.
One thing that he credited over the course of his maturity was throwing the curveball more when he was ahead in the count. Previously, DePaula would rely too much on his fastball and leave juicy nuggets for hitters to take advantage. His left on-base percentage of 59.5 during the 2008 season was a clear indicator of that fact. Hitters, even at the lowest levels, can hit a fastball when they know it is coming.
"It has improved because he is throwing his curveball," former Eugene and current Fort Wayne pitching coach Bronswell Patrick said. "Last year, he didn't have the curveball he showed us in spring training. His curveball here was outstanding. That is something that got him in trouble last year. He didn't have an out pitch. He was throwing his changeup too hard. The only thing he had was his fastball. He worked on his curveball during the offseason and it showed. That is one of his best pitches now."
He throws in the low-90s, touching 92 mph with his fastball. This is up a tick or two from the previous season. There are many who believe he will continue to add velocity as his frame fills out. He has a loose motion and terrific arm speed. Once his body adds more muscle, and he uses his lower half, touching 94-59 mph is not out of the question.
His curveball is a true plus pitch. It has tight spin and comes out of his hand looking like any other pitch. Its 12-to-6 action has early break and late bite. As he expands the zone with the offering, his success will continue to grow.
DePaula needs to continue to work on his changeup, and losing a year didn't help. He throws the offering too hard and does not create enough separation between the slip and his fastball. Confidence with the pitch will give him another weapon to utilize against both left-handers and right-handers – one that goes the other way from the fastball and curve.
"I think this kid is a guy that can really take off and move really quickly," Padres director of player development and international scouting Randy Smith said. "He's got great size, the velocity has increased, he's got a good breaking ball, good feel for the changeup, he could be a three-pitch left-hander that all of a sudden just starts moving through the system. "He does have that ability to throw strikes. He just needs to get healthy."
In the past, DePaula was also afraid to work inside and challenge hitters. With batters hanging over the plate in anticipation of a ball on the corner, he was not willing to get their feet moving. He has more confidence in throwing inside now and will work both corners of the plate.
He has cleaned up his mechanics over the last year and that has resulted in better command of his pitches.
"The kid has a bright future," Patrick said. "He is around the plate. Once he has more confidence with the changeup, since the curveball is an out pitch, he is going to have a bright future. His curveball has been remarkable – up until he got hurt."
Conclusion: DePaula is a very proud man. He takes compliments seriously and oftentimes believes he has to work harder to justify and prove that what is said about him remains true. It is a quality characteristic that has endeared him to the staff. A return to health is obviously key, as is a strength program that will enable him to incorporate his lower half into his delivery.
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