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2017 Arizona Diamondbacks Review: #20, Jorge De La Rosa

From a Colorado starter to an Arizona reliever - how did De La Rosa handle the transition?

MLB: Arizona Diamondbacks at Colorado Rockies Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
  • Date of Birth: April 5, 1981
  • 2017 Line: 65 games, 51.1 innings, 4.21 ERA, 45:21 K:BB
  • 2017 Value: 0.7 bWAR
  • 2017 Salary: $2.25M + incentives
  • SnakePit Rating: 6.16

2017 Analysis

De La Rosa, like Gregor Blanco and Fernando Rodney, was an example of the D-backs’ new-found enthusiasm under Mike Hazen for incentive-based, one-year contracts. Jorge was a very late signing, not being inked until February 19: his age (he turned 36 in April) and ineffectiveness as a starter (an OPS+ of 88) seemed to scare prospective employers off. He was signed mainly as a reliever, though his contract did also contain incentive clauses for De La Rosa as a starter, potentially worth up to $1 million. None of those were cashed in, but we don’t have specifics of the relief incentives, so we can’t say how much he actually cost. At a guess, probably around $2.6-$2.7m.

Catcher Chris Ianetta said in July, “I think during the spring it was a little bit of a challenge for him at first. You know, just getting used to a new routine… coming in and going after guys instead of pacing yourself. Within a few weeks, I think he really got the hang of it and he’s been doing a great job for us.” For he proved quite durable as a reliever, with only fellow left-hander Andrew Chafin making more appearances for the Diamondbacks than De La Rosa’s 65. Almost half of these (30) were for less than one inning, making Jorge the closest thing the team had to a LOOGY.

Using him that way made sense, because he had some quite extreme splits. Left-handed batters were held to a .194 average and .545 OPS; righties, on the other hand, hit him at a .267 clip, with an .821 OPS. The move to relief seemed to help his numbers overall, with De La Rosa’s K:BB being the best he’s had since 2012 (when he only threw 10.2 innings). He was also the king of stranding inherited runners: of the 33 men on base when he came in, Jorge only allowed ONE to score. His 97% strand rate was easily the best in the major leagues this year; no-one else who inherited 20+ men, was above 90%. Why? With RISP, opposing hitters batted .140 against him.

2018 prospects

He’s a free-agent, so we’d need to re-sign him if we wanted his services again next year. He (OPS .545), T.J. McFarland (.548) and Chafin (.565) were all similarly effective against left-handers, and struggled more or less against righties - Chafin’s OPS of .792 was the best there. I would have my doubts as to whether his strand-rate could possibly be as high as it was in 2017. Should that regress to the normal [MLB average for relievers last year was significantly lower, at 70%], De La Rosa would be considerably less effective, though because LOOGYs face fewer hitters, they do tend to have a higher strand %.

Whether the team wants to re-sign another free-agent left-hander may depend on how they feel about Jared Miller, probably the top southpaw relief prospect. He had a 2.93 ERA between AA and AAA this year, with 94 strikeouts over 73 innings, and we should probably see him at some point in 2018, perhaps even on the Opening Day roster. If he can deliver the performances we want, then the need to spend $3 million on someone like De La Rosa would be significantly less.