By Jeff Louderback
When the Boston Red Sox acquired Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster as part of the prospects package from the Los Angeles Dodgers in last summer’s blockbuster trade, Webster was more widely known than De La Rosa.
Webster is viewed as one of the game’s top right-handed pitching prospects – he was recently ranked 49th on Baseball America’s Top 100 Prospects List entering the 2013 season – but De La Rosa could have a higher ceiling.
The 23-year-old De La Rosa, who underwent Tommy John surgery in 2011 and is preparing for his first full season since 2010, has a fast ball that reaches 100 plus an above-average change-up and a developing slider. He has the tools to be a dominant Major League starter, and this spring he is receiving guidance from the game’s best starting pitcher in the majors from 1997 to 2003.
Pedro Martinez, who was named special assistant to Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington in the offseason, is De La Rosa’s cousin. As detailed on WEEI.com, Martinez is mentoring the fellow Dominican.
“Anything you want to do in baseball, as far as pitching, that kid has a chance,” Martinez told WEEI.com. “He has an opportunity to be someone special. Not just a regular player, but special. When you see someone like De La Rosa you think someone special, like a Clemens, a Juan Marichal. You think about elite players. That’s the type of stuff he has.”
De La Rosa still needs more seasoning. He lacks consistent command of his fast ball, and his slider has yet to develop into a plus offering. Still, he has the makeup and the tools to emerge as a frontline starter.
De La Rosa has yet to pitch above Double-A in six minor league seasons. The Dodgers thought so highly of him in 2011 that they summoned him from Double-A Chattanooga after he posted a 2.92 ERA in eight starts and struck out 52 in 40 innings. He was 4-5 with a 3.71 ERA and a 1.40 WHIP in 13 games (10 starts), striking out 60 in 60.1 innings before undergoing Tommy John surgery.
Last year, before he was shipped to Boston, De La Rosa rehabbed and appeared in just seven games, including one with the Dodgers. Likely, he will open the 2013 campaign at Triple-A Pawtucket and make his Red Sox debut at some point during the regular season.
With De La Rosa, Webster, Matt Barnes and Henry Owens, Boston finally has a plethora of high ceiling arms that can bolster the Major League rotation for the long term.