Prospect Profile: Rafael DePaula

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The Future of the Bullpen
(Photo via Josh Norris)

Rafael DePaula | RHP

Background
Hailing from La Victoria, Dominican Republic, the 21-year-old right-hander originally presented himself to teams as Rafael DePaula Figueroa with an April 1st, 1992 birthday in 2008. He didn’t garner much attention as a prospect that summer, but his velocity spiked later in the year and he was in line for a seven-figure bonus. MLB suspended him for one year in January 2009 for problems with his documentation.

Following the suspension, DePaula came forward with a new name (Jose Rafael DePaula) and new date of birth (March 24th, 1991). MLB approved his free agency, and he eventually agreed to a contract worth $500k with the Yankees in November 2010. It took 16 months for the U.S. Consulate to approve his visa. DePaula’s visa was finally approved this past March, and his contract became official when he passed a physical a few days later. In the meantime, he worked out at the team’s complex in the Dominican Republic but could not pitch in official games.

Pro Debut
DePaula remained in the Dominican Republic this summer and pitched for one of the team’s Dominican Summer League affiliates. He led the circuit in strikeout rate (12.4 K/9) and pitched to a 1.46 ERA (~1.65 FIP) with 85 strikeouts (35.9 K%) and just 18 walks (7.6 BB%) in 61.2 innings across 14 starts. He participated in Instructional League after the season.

Scouting Report
Listed at 6-foot-2 and 212 lbs., DePaula regularly runs his fastball into the mid-90s and has touched 99 in the past. His velocity jumped from the high-80s to low-to-mid-90s prior to suspension. DePaula’s top secondary pitch is a hard curveball in the low-80s, and his changeup is promising but still a work in progress.

Despite his big and lanky frame, DePaula has a controlled and repeatable delivery that allows him to throw strikes with relative ease. He reportedly showed some rust in the DSL this summer, which isn’t all that surprising given the lack of game action in recent years. The Yankees love his makeup, particularly how he stayed focused and worked through his suspension and visa delay. Here’s some video.

2013 Outlook
The Yankees are expected to bump DePaula up to High-A Tampa next season, which would be a pretty big jump for a kid who has yet to pitch in the United States. I wouldn’t be surprised if they changed course and held him back in Extended Spring Training for a few weeks at the start of the season before sending him out, but we’ll see. Either way, DePaula is not your typical internationally signed arm. He is expected to move quickly.

My Take
With Manny Banuelos having Tommy John surgery, Jose Campos missing almost the entire season with an elbow injury, and Dellin Betances making zero progress taking steps back, a case can be made that DePaula is the organization’s top pitching prospect. I don’t like that he missed so much development time over the last few years, but he’s got a big arm and showed the kind of results you want to see in his brief pro debut this summer. Next season is going to be a very important year for DePaula as he comes stateside for the first time, and he has the potential to emerge as a Top 100 Prospect within 12 months.

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Feinsand: Dodgers shopping Andre Ethier
The Future of the Bullpen
  • manny

    Sucks that our farm is so depleted, goes to show that when you can, trading a prospect for a proven player is definitely the way to go.

    • turd surfer

      Don’t trade the Big 3! Save the Big 3!

      • JobaWockeeZ

        So if the Big Three were kept you get a very good starter in IPK, a starter in Hughes and maybe a starter or at the worst a high leverage bullpen arm.

        You’re making fun of who exactly? The people that wanted them all gone for Johan Santana? LOL.

        • turd surfer

          Trading away IPK had merits. Trading Joba and Hughes would have had its own merits. Could have got quite a haul if they traded all three before they pitched too much in the majors.

        • MannyGeee

          Is IPK a really good starter? Or did he have one really nice season in a markedly easier division?

          Would Phil Hughes be a gorilla in the NL West and IPK be an apparent disappointment in Pinstripes?

    • Rich in NJ

      No it doesn’t. Prospects aren’t fungible. It depends on the prospect and the player you are getting back. There is no general rule.

  • turd surfer

    Is Paniagua better? I hated missing out on him.

  • Dan

    Mike,
    What do you think his inning limit will be next season? With him only throwing 62 innings in the DSL, and maybe he had an extra 10-20 in the instructional league after that, maybe 100-120 at most?

    • Reggie C.

      100-120 seems right.

      Considering he’s 21 and has been throwing in simulated games in DR and in Tampa, I wouldn’t be surprised if DePaula’s arm was deemed ready to handle a 100-120 inning workload.

      DePaula’s a great wildcard. He could be the most valuable trade chip in the organization if he emerges as a High-A all-star. That’s our next Arodys Vizcaino!!

      • MannyGeee

        “That’s our next Arodys Vizcaino”

        Yeah… But when will the next Boone Logan be available via trade?

        *continuing to stick my head in the sand regarding the other guys in that trade….*

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      100-120 is about right. Maybe 130.

  • Mike HC

    I’m really digging these prospect write ups. Great work on these.

  • ton lon ton

    what if we still had kennedy and montero and brandon claussen?

  • Andy in Sunny Daytona

    Love the Prospect Profiles.

    • dan

      Just went back and read the melvin croussett profile from 2009, which was requested by you. Good times.

      • Andy in Sunny Daytona

        Seriously, the Yankees should bring MC into the DSL camp every year and teach their pitchers his change-up.

  • endlessjose

    Everyone says to get younger but there’s only two ways to have a winning team.

    1)Lose for many years and collect high draft picks.(Rays,Nationals,Tigers)

    2.)Spend alot of many.(Yankees,Dodgers,Red Sox,Angles,Tigers)

    3.)Trade your best stars.(Orioles,A’s)

    A team like the yankees don’t get good draft picks and now with a international draft where is all the high talent gonna come from?I can’t see the Yankees winning without spending money.

    • MannyGeee

      Your logic seems flawed… The only two ways you mentioned appear to be three.

      • JobaWockeeZ

        Holy nitpick Batman.

        • Jim Is Bored

          It’s the internet. If you are wrong, it will be pointed out.

          Even if you are not wrong, frequently people will still try to point out how you were wrong. Nitpicking is the official activity of the internet.

          • Mister D

            Not its not.

            (!!!)

            • Mike HC

              Why the excessive use of exclamation points?!

          • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals

            It’s the internet. If you are wrong, it will be pointed out.

            Way to end the sentence in a preposition, Batman.

    • Should I Fister or Pettitte?

      The reason why the 90s Yankees were so successful:

      1) They used the farm properly and got players out of the system like: Bernie Williams, Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera,and Jorge Posada.

      2) With the homegrown players, they successfully had an infusion of hardened veterans for leadership: O’Neill, Martinez, Boggs, Raines, etc.

      This is the format the team needs follow for now, until the end of time. Teams like Los Angeles are using the method of adding superstars at every position and look where that got the Yankees.

      I think I’m one of the few that is actually supporting the proposed austerity budget.

      • Jim Is Bored

        Oversimplify much?

        Hoping for a prospect crop to come to fruition like Jeter, Posada, Mo and Bernie is not an ideal way to reach the playoffs every year.

        If you can’t prove to me, somehow, that the playoffs are not an exercise in flukes and small sample sizes, and that there is some magical formula for winning in the playoffs, then I’m going to go ahead and think that the Yankees run of playoff appearances is remarkable, and in no way a failure.

        That being said, I support the budget for now, assuming that they’re willing to go back above the tax the year after.

        • Rockdog

          +1. And it is worth pointing out that if anyone is waiting for our farm system to produce 2 sure thing hall of famers and 2 borderline HOFs at the same time … well, that might be a long wait.

          • Jonathan

            Plus he didn’t even mention Andy who depending on how he wants to go with the rest of his career could make the hall. 245-142 wins now. I know wins isn’t a good stat at all but it’s better over a lifetime and the voters eat it up. If he pitches 3 partial years (presuming A LOT) kind of like Clemens and gets close to 10 wins it’d be hard for voters to turn him away at 275-165 etc. I know there is so much more to what goes into it but I wasn’t looking to try and extrapolate advanced stuff over 3 years…just spit balling. Bernie and Jorge are locks for the HOF if they didn’t play in the steroid era. That kind of offensive production from CF/C is ELITE but when everyone is going with 3,000 hits 500 HRs etc it doesn’t look as good as it really is stacked against other CF/Cs. The best thing WAR can do for HOF voting is to show the difference between a 1B or LFer and some up the middle guys.

            • Mathsher

              Real wins are not a good stat.??? The good stats (WAR)use virtual wins to simulate real wins. I’ll take real wins. Felix should have won the Cy Young the year before, but not the year he won it.

      • Mike HC

        3) Luck in close ballgames

        2001 and 2004 ended with Mo blowing saves on dinky hits, stolen bases etc … while in the winning years, the Yanks pulled out almost all of those one run games, 9th inning comebacks.

        “Aura” “Mystique” “Curse of Babe Ruth” were many times just another word for luck.

      • Rich in NJ

        There was also a CBA during that period that didn’t foster parity nearly as much.

        So yeah, they need to become much better at developing prospects and integrating them on to the ML roster, but that alone does not ensure the success they had.

        • Mike HC

          The Yanks were not outspending teams all wild crazy in the late 90’s like they did in the mid 2000’s. In 1998, the Yanks best season, Baltimore had a higher payroll than us. And several teams were within 10-15% of our salary in the late 90’s.

          • trr

            correct, and those were our best teams….hmmm

          • Rich in NJ

            Having the second highest payroll in MLB, as they did in 1998 is more than enough to be able to pay top dollar to a bunch of the best players in MLB.

            The reason they didn’t need a bigger advantage was that guys like Jeter and Rivera were making all-world contributions while only making 750K each.

            Those are the kind of offsets they are no longer getting (and didn’t get in the mid-2000s, and it underscores why they need to go back to a model that features cost-controlled, high impact player. They don’t have to be Jeter-Rivera great, but they have to be above league average at a young age.

            • Mike HC

              I was just commenting on you saying that the CBA was a reason the for the Yanks dynasty.

              I agree with you 100% that developing Jeter, Pettitte, Mo, Jorge and Bernie all at around the same time was the reason. Which is not repeatable under any CBA and arguably no team in recent history has been able to develop 5 guys of that caliber at the same time (although I haven’t looked into this claim at all, just a hunch)

              • Rich in NJ

                The old CBAs helped them retain their talent as they became more and more expensive. Now, maybe George would have continued to spend and not let an increasingly high Yankee tax stop him?

                I agree with what you said above that luck is a factor in the postseason. They had some things go their way from ’96-’00, that went the other way in the early ’00s.

                • Mike HC

                  I’m with you here on all this.

      • Kevin

        Look at where it got them? Into the postseason every single year?

        The late 1990s Yankees were a great team, one of the very greatest to ever play. The Yanks will likely never, ever be that good again. No matter what plan they use. That team was special. They’ll never be that good again. It’s very possible no team will be that good again for a very, very long time.

      • renzostew

        You are talking about moves in the 1990’s not in this century where Cashman’s people have drafted and developed at very poor percentage of players.They need a big change from the GM on down to the farm system

  • Bitch in NJ

    fungible. Lame.

    • Rich in NJ

      ^irony

      • Havok9120

        Was that you with a typo’d name or our newest troll?

  • Yankees Insider

    I say he’ll be up by mid to late 2014. With pettitte, kuroda, and hughes gone for 2014 our rotation could look like:
    1.CC
    2.PINEDA/FA
    3.PINEDA/FA
    4.PHELPS/TURLEY
    5.NOVA/KILLER B’s/DePAULA

    We will sign a FA pitcher with all the money well have. But we’d have to fill closer role and each starter after 2-3. Including OF (when GRANDY goes), possibly SS (Nunez), and 2B (if cano leaves), and don’t forget 3B (if arod becomes DH)-David Adams.

    • Havok9120

      Holy cow. That’s some aggressive advancement. Especially since he’ll almost certainly still be on an innings limit in 2014 and “mid to late” implies he’ll have used most/all of it by the time you’ve got him coming up.

  • Wayne

    We can’ t trade this guy . He is going to be our first young ace if we keep him. He is not vizcaíno, way better than that! Wait till mid 2015 for him to come up.

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CwIuLSaTVFI Tammera Boham

    And people thought i was joking when I say I don’t buy Yankees gear because I never wear it out of fear of my life (I’m a bit shorter than your average Canadian.)