"He has a plus-plus fastball, a plus-plus changeup and a plus slider," Chattanooga pitching coach Chuck Crimm said. "When you have that, you usually pitch in the Major Leagues."
In De La Rosa's case, the question is when. He's just 22, but his time doesn't appear far off. Only a little more polish is needed.
De La Rosa pitched six times for the Dodgers in Spring Training, including three Cactus League starts and had a 2.29 ERA with 16 strikeouts and three walks. In one outing, he no-hit the Giants for four innings.
"He's always been a confident kid. That's something that sticks out," Chattanooga manager Carlos Subero said. "But going to big league camp and having success there has helped his progress. He's locating and really pitching now, not just trusting his stuff."
That "pitchability" is what impresses Crimm as much as anything.
"You just don't see that very often in a young pitcher," he noted.
What has wowed Southern League crowds, though, is the scoreboard radar readings. "We've had him at a true 99, but he can get it up there to 100," Crimm said.
That is especially hard to catch up to when it follows a changeup that his pitching coach calls "as good as there is in baseball."
Success has come quickly for De La Rosa, who's in just his second full season in the Minors. He made eight starts for Chattanooga in the second half of last season, going 3-1 with a 1.41 ERA.
Scheduled to pitch on Opening Night for the Lookouts this year, De La Rosa missed that start to return to the Dominican Republic after the death of his grandmother, who had raised him and his siblings. But he's been impressive since returning.
Jacksonville hit him a little bit Sunday, but De La Rosa is 2-1 with a 3.38 ERA and had 29 strikeouts to eight walks in 21 1/3 innings after four starts. Even in the loss to the Suns, he recorded 10 strikeouts in six innings without walking a batter.
Raised in humble surroundings, De La Rosa worked in a warehouse to help make ends meet as a young teen and didn't play baseball until he was 15. "We were very poor," he said.
At 18, he was signed by the Dodgers for a $15,000 bonus that seemed like a fortune to De La Rosa, who pitched in the Dominican Summer League for two years before coming to the United States in 2009.
Now the Majors aren't that far away. Improving his slider from last season may have been the final step in his preparation, and a little polish is needed to get the gem shining bright.
"I learned a lot," De La Rosa said of his experience in Spring Training. "I'm more confident now. I know when to throw my pitches and how to get hitters out. It helped me get ready."
Moore dazzles Longoria: Tampa Bay third baseman Evan Longoria got an up-close look at potential future teammate Matt Moore while rehabbing with Montgomery, and he was impressed by the young lefty. "That was fun to watch," Longoria told the Montgomery Advertiser after MLB.com's No. 27 prospect held Jacksonville to three hits and a run over six innings while striking out eight and walking one in his first victory after two losses. "I think the further he goes, he'll realize how good his fastball is and dominate with that," Longoria said. "He was pretty dominant tonight."
Archer still winless: Chris Archer was a key part of Tampa Bay's trade of Matt Garza to the Cubs, but he got off to a slow start in the Rays organization. Rated as MLB.com's No. 47 prospect, the right-hander is 0-1 with a 5.96 ERA after five starts for Montgomery and has allowed 31 hits in 22 1/3 innings. Archer, 22, was a combined 15-3 last season, including 8-2 for Tennessee.
Boxberger dominating: Brad Boxberger, a supplemental first-round pick by Cincinnati in the 2009 Draft, has 20 strikeouts in his first 12 2/3 innings for Carolina and has allowed just six hits while posting a 1.42 ERA in nine relief appearances. He pitched at Southern California like his father, Rod, who was MVP of the 1978 College World Series.