Ranked the ninth best prospect in the Appy League by Matt Eddy, St. Louis Cardinals prospect Victor De Leon has generated some buzz among the prospect community as of late. Let's delve deeper into him as he prepares to make the jump to full-season ball next spring.
Bats: R Throws: R
Height: 6'2 Weight: 190 lb.
Victor De Leon has a huge arm.
That was worth its own paragraph, because it's true. Victor De Leon will always show up on prospect lists because of his fastball, which consistently sits 60-65 on the scouting scale, with potential to be more. I saw De Leon pitch twice this year, once in late August and the other in the Appalachian League playoffs. Both outings featured a big fastball, sitting 94-98 and occasionally showcasing arm-side run that made it lethal. He struggled to spot this pitch, and would overthrow at times when he was ahead in the count, trying to blow batters away instead of finish them off by spotting his pitch.
His delivery has a lot of effort in it, involving a herky-jerky motion that is difficult to repeat, and it appeared to affect him at times. This concern has me questioning whether or not he can stick in the rotation, or if he will be limited to short stints.
His main offspeed pitch was a curve that sits 76-80, which flashed above-average to plus. He struggled to consistently spot this pitch in the zone, lacking both command and control. At times he could take some movement off of it to be able to throw it for strikes, but the pitch became more hittable when he would do that, leading to more contact off of it.
His second offspeed pitch was a perplexing one, a change-up that sat 85-87 and flashed some fade. The pitch excited me the most when it showed the fade, as it really became a weapon for him against left-handed hitters. Although the arm-action on it was far from perfect, the movement should balance that out. The development of this pitch will be crucial if De Leon is going to become a relief-ace type, as he will need to get both handed hitters out.
De Leon's heavy fastball appears to have lead to a low amount of home runs, as he only surrendered one for the entire 2012 Appalachian League season. His HR/9 has steadily decreased in the minors, going from 0.92 in the Domincan Summer League in 2010, to 0.36 in the GCL in 2011, to 0.20 in the Appalachian League.
Although De Leon has seen his ERA rise from his DSL days, his FIP has improved each year. As you can see in the better than 1-run decrease, his improvement in K/9 (8.53 in 2012) along with the drop in home runs has led to a dramatic increase in FIP, one of the few stats worth looking at for a minor leaguer (table below looks at aforementioned stats).
With De Leon, it will be important to watch the walks as he progresses to higher levels and therefore better, more experienced hitters.
De Leon is an interesting pitching prospect, and depending on if he can improve his command, we could be looking at a very good reliever.