Waiver Worthy: Is Rubby De La Rosa Worth Taking A Flier On?

Rubby De La Rosa certainly was thrown into the fire in his first Major League start, taking on the Phillies in Philadelphia.  With that type of matchup it shouldn’t have been surprising to see him try to avoid contact, because who wants to watch balls off the bats of Ryan Howard or Chase Utley flying over the fences?

He certainly wasn’t bad, allowing 1 R on 4 H and 5 BB, striking out 4, over 5.0 innings of work.  In fact, it was good enough to claim a victory.  Still, allowing that many base runners just isn’t acceptable.  More times than not, if you walk a batter per inning you are ultimately going to get burned.

Of course, this probably isn’t the start that you want to be judging him on, either.  So, the question fantasy owners have to be asking themselves is if he is worth taking a flier on moving forward?

It would be nice if we had an extended body of work in the minor leagues to make any judgments on, but unfortunately the 22-year old only has a small sample size to look at.  He never pitched in Triple-A, but between 2010 & 2011 he made 16 starts at Double-A posting the following line:

5 Wins
91.0 Innings
2.08 ERA
1.19 WHIP
91 Strikeouts (9.00 K/9)
40 Walks (3.96 BB/9)
.285 BABIP

The control has to jump out at you, because it shows that his struggles against the Phillies may not have been an aberration based on the opponent.  If he is walking nearly four batters per nine innings against inexperienced Double-A hitters, how can we not expect to see him walk significantly more against Major League hitters?

The strikeouts could be slightly deceiving as well, since he was posting an 11.7 K/9 in 40.0 innings in ’11 (after being at 6.9 in 51.0 innings in ’10).  Could he have just learned to harness his stuff better?  Could he have matured to the point of being an elite strikeout artist? 

Back in January ESPN Los Angeles (click here for the article) posted and article entitled, “Rubby De La Rosa: How Close Is He?”  In the article they wrote:

“Chattanooga Lookouts radio broadcaster Larry Ward told Brandon Lennox of True Blue L.A. in August that De La Rosa had a fastball that could smell 100 mph, plus a secondary change and slider, while Keith Law of ESPN.com praised his stuff before the 2009 season. The watchwords, it seems to me, are consistency and endurance.”

It certainly doesn’t appear like anything has changed.  While that write-up certainly backs his potential to be an elite strikeout artist, you have to wonder if he has yet to learn to harness it and consistently pound the strike zone.  If he’s not going to throw strikes, he’s going to be a tremendous risk.

You also have to wonder how deep into the season he is going to be able to pitch.  He threw just 110.1 innings in 2010, so how deep are the Dodgers going to push him?  How long will it be before they shift him back to the bullpen (remember, he’s currently only in the rotation because Jon Garland is on the DL)?

The strikeout potential makes him alluring, but today’s start against the Rockies is going to be extremely telling for fantasy owners.  If he shows that he can avoid handing out walks, he will be worth taking the flier on, especially with his next start coming against the Astros next on the schedule (and the Angels after that).

He’s going to be high risk, high reward, so proceed with extreme caution.  However, in deeper formats, stashing him certainly seems worthwhile.

What are your thoughts of De La Rosa?  Do you think he’s worth taking the gamble on?  Why or why not?

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