Last night the Cincinnati Reds acquired right-handed pitcher Jose De Leon from Tampa Bay. The Reds sent the Ray cash and a player to be named later to acquire the 27-year-old pitcher. He joined the 40-man roster, putting it at a full 40 players.

Background

Jose De Leon went to high school in Puerto Rico, but went undrafted out of high school. He was drafted By the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2013 after spending three seasons in the rotation for Southern University.

He struggled in his pro debut with the Dodgers organization. Pitching at two of their rookie-level affiliates he posted a 6.96 ERA in 53.0 innings with 21 walks and 53 strikeouts.

The next season, though, he took a huge step forward. Los Angeles held him back in extended spring training to start 2014. In June they sent him to the Pioneer League. He made a mockery of the hitter friendly league, posting a 2.65 ERA in 54.1 innings with 77 strikeouts before getting a late season promotion to the Midwest League. He was even better there, allowing three earned runs in 22.2 innings with two walks and 42 strikeouts. Better conditioning and some adjustments to his mechanics led to big results with better stuff. He jumped from unranked in the Dodgers organization to their #6 overall prospect that year.

He continued to climb the ladder for the Dodgers the next two seasons, posting a 2.99 ERA between Advanced-A and Double-A in 2015 with 163 strikeouts in 114.1 innings in 2015. In 2016 he posted a 2.61 ERA in Triple-A with 111 strikeouts in 86.1 innings before reaching the Majors that September. After the 2015 season he rated out as the #23 overall prospect in baseball according to Baseball America. After the 2016 season he was rated as the #29 prospect in the game.

Following the 2016 season he was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays for Logan Forsythe, who was coming off of two above-average years where he posted a combined 8.6 WAR. But the 2017 season was when things started to go south for Jose De Leon. He made several trips to the disabled list – including missing time with a flexor mass injury. His stuff fell off. The next spring he would undergo Tommy John surgery and miss all of the 2018 season and the start of the 2019 season.

When Jose De Leon returned to the mound in 2019 he found plenty of success. With a juiced baseball making a mockery of Triple-A and the Major Leagues, he posted a 3.51 ERA in 51.1 innings for Triple-A Durham. The league average ERA for the year was 4.90. He had his pitch count severely limited during the season. He made 13 starts for the Bulls but topped 65 pitches just three times. Still, the strikeout stuff returned as he picked up 73 of them in his 51.1 innings in the International League. He would also pitch in three games with the Rays towards the end of the year, striking out seven more in 4.0 innings.

Jose De Leon Scouting Report

Before the flexor mass injury, and then having Tommy John surgery, the right-handed pitcher would sit 92-95 MPH with his fastball and show off a plus change up. His slider was an average third offering.

Today his velocity isn’t there anymore. In Triple-A this year he pitched 89-92 MPH, topping out around 94. The pitch moves well, showing movement on both planes. His slider and change up both still work in the low 80’s. The change up still shows itself as a swing-and-miss offering. His slider is a solid offering, but was a little inconsistent during the year at times when it comes to his ability to throw it for strikes.

As mentioned above, he pitched mostly as a starter, but did pitch out of the bullpen a few times during the year. In the minors his velocity didn’t improve in those appearances. In the Major Leagues, though, he did throw a little bit harder. We are talking about just three games, but he threw 91-93, and topped out at 95 MPH with Tampa Bay.

When looking at the stats, the walk rate in 2019 was higher than you want it to be. He walked 12.2% of the Triple-A hitters he faced. But he also struck out 33% of the hitters he faced, and that’s very strong. He’s always been a guy who leaned towards being a fly ball pitched, but in 2019 that rate was very high. He only induced ground balls on 30% of the batted balls against him. That is a rate of ground balls that is quite different from where he’s ever been in the past. It is worth keeping an eye on moving forward, though.

What to expect from Jose De Leon

This is kind of the big question, isn’t it? The stuff right now projects for possible a solid middle reliever option, or perhaps a back-of-the-rotation pitcher who could be viewed in that swingman kind of role.

But that’s only if his stuff stays where it’s at right now. The velocity is down a bit from where he was before the injuries. If that velocity returns it would likely lead to better production. And there are some reasons to be cautiously optimistic that some of it could return.

In 2019 he was in his first year back from Tommy John surgery. Another year out could mean a little more velocity. Of course it may not mean that at all, too. But Jose De Leon certainly wouldn’t be the first player to see it happen that way. Another reason to think he could find some of that lost velocity is Kyle Boddy. While Boddy and Driveline certainly do more than add velocity, that is one of the things that they are known for.

One other thing of note is that Jose De Leon has one option remaining. That means that he won’t have to stick on the big league roster out of spring training or be waived, and can be sent to the minor leagues if the Reds feel that’s the best course of action.

Overall Thoughts

We don’t know exactly what the Cincinnati Reds gave up at this point. They are sending Tampa Bay cash and a player to be named later. But we don’t know how much cash, or which player – and that makes a difference. With that said, the Rays made multiple trades on Wednesday to clear 40-man roster spots. That tells us that it’s likely that the cash wasn’t much, and the player to be named later won’t be a high rated prospect. And if that holds true, this definitely feels like an upside play for the Reds. It wasn’t that long ago that he was one of the better prospects in baseball and had plus stuff. He’s not that same guy now, but you’ve also seen what’s possible. The risk likely isn’t much, but the reward could be there.

He still has prospect list eligibility. MLB Pipeline had him rated as the Rays 25th best prospect. I spent about two hours watching video from a handful of games of his late on Wednesday night to get a good feel for what he brought to the table. While there’s some upside there if he can get back some of the lost velocity, that’s some hope laid onto a guy who is 27-years-old with a handful of Major League innings. I like the trade and upside play here. But I’m also not sure I’d rate him among the Reds Top 25 prospects, either. His age combined with current stuff just doesn’t get him into that group. It’s probably close, though.

51 Responses

  1. Andrew

    Love the move. Hes the kind of guy i can Johnson turning into a beast

    • Colorado Red

      Plus, it has now been over a year since TJ.
      Might just see an uptick this year in the velocity .
      Very low rick, and a high reward.

  2. Krozley

    Good pick up. Injuries derailed him for two and a half years and he certainly figured out how to strike out batters in his return last year, so the stuff must be decent and you hope the control returns. Being 27 hurts him a bit for prospect rankings, but that won’t matter much if he can put it together.

    For the PTBNL, I wonder if the Rays have their eyes on certain players that are Rule 5 eligible and they want to wait till after the draft to make sure they would still have control of that player without using a 40 man spot. Maybe any one of Sugilio, Friedl, Beltre, Crook, AlfRod, Isabel, etc.

    • Stock

      They have no interest in adding a man to their 40 man roster. The reason they traded De Leon is because they needed to create room on the 40 man roster.

  3. Norwood Nate

    Really like this move. Big upside combined with DJ and Boddy working with him should add up to good things.

    • CP

      Man isn’t it nice to be able to think our organization has the competent staff to now maximize the abilities of previous teams talent?!

  4. Wes

    Imo, a prospects success should be a yuge part of evaluation as should be how close a player is ready for majors. if that’s the case than de Leon is 10 organizational. He will have a better mlb career mostly than the likes of vlad gutt, Lyon Richardson and possibly Santillan. He’s more accomplished than older prospects like Siri and o Grady too.

    Great pick up for reds !

      • Alex

        jose de leon was a top 100 prospect at one point, For people that might not know, but he has been injured and fallen off the radar. so yes i totally agree with wes

  5. Northern Ky reds

    Terrible pick up. What the fellow commenters thinking? What are the reds thinking? This made ZERO sense. We have plenty of arms in the minor leagues. Oh my god.

    This whole front office should be fired then put in jail for stealing their salaries. What a waste of a move. How is this guy going to help this club?

    We need new ownership.

    • wes

      They bought a former top 30 prospect in all of baseball in a fire sale. LOL. Try to keep it together bruh! Ownership isn’t changing and this team is trying to win now- might as well root for em since you are a reds fan vs hoping for something that’ll never happen.

    • Colorado Red

      Are you drinking? What???,
      He is almost free.
      Has high upside, and if does not make it, so what?

  6. LB

    Doug,

    This isn’t really a question of my expectations for him, as I realize the severity of his injuries and the fact that he may never be the same, but I’ve always thought of K rate as a strong indicator of the quality of one’s “stuff.” Given his absurd K rate both before and after the injuries, what is it about his stuff that doesn’t offer upside higher than a BOR starter?

    We all know velo is important and helps pitchers be “high-upside guys”, but we also know you don’t necessarily need high velo to strike guys out.

    Tempering expectations until further notice, but I love the move.

    • Doug Gray

      Generally speaking, big leaguers are a lot better than minor leaguers…. While I do agree that strikeout rate can tell us about stuff and deception, sometimes that stuff works a lot better in the minors. When a guy is throwing 89-92, but has a real good offspeed pitch – that’s a profile that can get a lot of guys out in the minors. In the Majors, that’s usually not a profile that can do that at the same kind of rate. It can be, of course, but it’s usually not.

      For every Cliff Lee out there, there are 100 guys who had a similar profile who weren’t Cliff Lee. Go with the profile and hope a guy out performs it for this or that reason – but don’t expect it until it starts happening.

  7. RedWard

    This may be similar to the question from LB. Seems that most agree this is a good move based on potential return, and you can never have too much pitching, so continue to get the pitching.

    But if this seems like a good “upside” move for the Reds, why would Tampa Bay not feel the same way and hang onto him?

    I know players get traded all the time, and we don’t know what TB is getting in return, but seems like they would want to keep him.

    • Doug Gray

      They must have felt that the combination of the cash, the player to be named later (they have a list of players to choose from already), and the ability to protect one of the guys that they needed the roster spot for outweighs the potential upside with De Leon here.

  8. wes

    Y’all see that trade suggestion on MLB today? Yanks send top prospect, Fraizer and Happ to reds for castillo. That actually looks pretty good imo. The prospect is 20 in 3A and stuck out 165 in 111 innings last season, Frazier improves outfield and Happ is a workhorse and a good bounceback candidate like Gray last year.

    If Reds can’t land big free names- something like this could improve the team and keep a surplus of TOR candidates about

    • Bill

      The proposal was written by Mark Feinsand, a New Jersey based avid Yankees fan. Never accept a proposal from an opposing teams fanbase.

      – Happ has negative trade value. We’d be paying $17M for 1 year of 1.6 WAR (Steamer’s projection). Projected FIP is 4.89 (last year his FIP was 5.22) and he’s 37 years old.

      – Frazier would be a nice bat, but can he play CF? If not, would we really want to trade an elite pitcher for a good corner OF.

      – Garcia is a good, but not elite prospect (60s range at both MLB.com and BA).

      This would be a disaster.

    • Bill

      Counter proposal: Mahle for Frazier (provided we think he can play CF). This is a need for need trade with players with similar upside, risk and service time.

    • Doc

      There would go the Reds starting pitching. Next year after 70 wins the comments will be how the Yankees raped the Reds again.

    • Colorado Red

      NO chance.
      Host Hou, and Was, made it to the WS with pitching.
      Castillo is a rare bird.

      This is a very bad trade.

    • wes

      What’s the percentage Happ has a better season than Castillo next season? He was better in 18. 30%?

      What a player is ranked holds little water. 2 seasons ago Juan Soto wasn’t in top 100 and Jose De Leon was top 30….Being 20 in 3A with a K ratio like that makes him much more valuable than many of the players ranked a head. Trammell is top 25 yet can’t perform in AA at 22.

      • Bill

        Steamers has Castillo more than doubling Happ in 2020 in terms of WAR.

        Wes, here’s how the Trade Simulator at baseballtradevalue.com (their model, by no means perfect, but has a decent correlation with actual trades) evaluates the proposed trade:

        Yankees would be acquiring a median trade value (MTV) of $108.1M compared to the Reds would be receiving $32.7M in MTV. (Frazier is worth $19M MTV, Happ is worth -9.1M MTV and Garcia is worth 22.8M MTV. If you use their models lowest valuation for Castillo and their highest valuations for Frazier, Happ and Garcia it still shows the Yankees coming out ahead to the tune of more than $50M MTV. Their model says most trades are actually within $2M MTVs. The Reds would be losing boatloads of value in this Yankee fan’s proposed trade (somewhere between two-thirds and half of Castillo’s value).

      • Hoyce

        That Castillo trade would be horrific.
        Counter trade: bauers and Barnhart for urshela and García. When yanks say no… replace García w lessor prospect.

    • Stock

      The Cubs traded Jimenez, Cease and others for Quintana

      Castillo is much better than Quintana

      Jimenez is much better than Frazier
      Cease has upside Happ is just an expensive contract.

      I agree with Bill.

      Pass

  9. Bill

    The fact that he has an option is a big plus. As the roster currently stands now, a fully returned to health DeLeon offers an upgrade for our fifth starter slot. However, there’s really no pressure for that to happen as the option allows him to get more work at AAA if warranted. Starting pitching is thin in the Reds upper minors. This is a nice move (of course pending the player we send in return).

    Cronenworth is a player in the Rays farm system I would like to see the Reds target. He’s a LH-hitting SS that broke out at AAA last year. The Rays are loaded with promising young SS at both the big league and minor league levels. His AAA line was .334/.429/.520 with 49 walks/62 strikeouts. The Rays also have him pitching.

  10. Rob

    Yasmani Grandal signs with the White Sox puts a dent in the offseason plans. Personally, I like the De Leon signing. Low risk, higher upside transaction.

    • wes

      Reds would have surely paid the 4 years at 18+. He picked white sox over reds.

      • Earmbrister

        “Reds would have surely paid the 4 years at 18+.”

        I disagree. Doubt the Reds would go more than 3 years with Tyler Stephenson in the mix.

      • Norwood Nate

        I have no idea what the Reds offered. So I’m not going to cast blame on the FO for not signing Grandal.
        But I don’t think Stephenson’s presence would be a deterrent to a 4-year deal. If anything it would be Grandal’s age. Stephenson will probably spend next year in AAA, but development isn’t linear. Every ETA we have in our heads is reliant on several factors, many unknown to everyone at the time. Counting on Stephenson to be fully ready in 2021 would still be fairly optimistic. The Reds could very well keep Barnhart through his contract and decide from there about his 2022 option when they get to it. If Stephenson sets the world on fire next year they can find value in trading Barnhart and (could have) played Stephenson alongside Grandal through the end of his contract, knowing that catchers need regular time off each week.

    • Bill

      So who is the next best target … perhaps Robinson Chirinos who could pair with Barnhart. This is disappointing. Grandal was the best opportunity to move the needle for the Reds. At least we don’t face him now.

  11. Jim Delaney

    This off season is already moving with signings. We shall see if Reds front office talk of being aggressive and improving offense happens or if it was just noise… so far noise is the big winner…

    • MK

      We have no idea how aggressive the Reds were here. Grandal almost signed with the White Sox last winter as they were even using the acquisition of Yonder Alonzo as a hook to acquire him, so I am sure that played a role. With the Reds current organizational emphasis on pitching technology maybe the fact that Yasmani, who hasn’t been a pitcher’s favorite, tempered the Reds interest in him.

      • victor vollhardt

        Grandal had a fine year last year no one can deny, but MK makes good points. Lets not forget the absolutely awful World series a few years back both at the plate and behind the plate. He was benched in that series. Then early on in his MLB career he had a long drug suspension. Put the age factor in the mix (a 3 year deal would make better sense) and maybe the Reds were right to pass if they had the chance.

      • wes

        Reds where all over him and missed out again. No doubt. Might as well accept it for what it is vs pretending like they are viable options for top tier free agents. We know its true bc they were linked to him several times in several articles. The articles are generated from leaked info- Houston wanted him on a bargain deal, Reds and White Sox were willing to pay max to acquire him- he chose white sox.

    • Dollar Bill

      Reds FO is weak. Owners are even weaker!

      Lip service and lots of noise!

  12. MK

    DeLeon joins Marinan, Ibandel, Clementina, Zabala, Farmer as Ex-Dudger prospects now in Reds organization. (hopefully I did not forget anyone).

  13. Joe

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t one of the big things with Kyle Boddy is that his throwing programs can add a few mph of velocity to many guys? I have it in my head that I’ve heard Bauer mention that a few times. I really don’t know too many specifics on his techniques, honestly curious.

    If that’s the case, I LOVE this move. One more year away from injury, and between this and Johnson, how does this guy NOT improve.

  14. Clammy

    what is the timeline for the PTBNL? Also, aren’t we due a PTBNL from the Giants for Scooter? They did release him shortly after, so maybe that deal was settled for ‘cash considerations.’

    • Optimist

      It was just cash, and there was a deadline a few months ago. Don’t recall if there was an announcement, since there was no PTBNL to announce. Believe the same applies here – there is a deadline, and others have noted it may benefit the Rays since the can get through the winter meetings/Rule 5 draft w/o further adjusting their 40 man.

  15. DaveCT

    I see the DeLeon acquisition as a counterbalance to Glausman. If the Reds choose to let Glausman walk due to his price tag, DeLeon offers an excellent replacement. Given the recent acquisitions of guys like Glausman and Sims, this trade is very consistent with the teams approach of taking flyers on pitchers with previously big stuff looking to rebound. I like it.

    • Hoyce

      Reds should let gausman walk. Too expensive. And reds should not get anyone in FA. Other than 1 or 2 year deals or a RP or 2. I think Pomeranz is the best target. Reds need a LHR
      Reds need to trade trade and trade some more.

  16. Redsvol

    I like the move for Deleon. Nothing to lose – other than a 40 man roster spot. I would have preferred they not only got Deleon but also add Friedl by dfa’ing Peraza or Schebler. There are 20 cheap free agents that can do what PEraza can and I feel Schebler’s been given every chance to win a spot and hasn’t done it. For that matter, I would like to keep Ibandel and let O’grady walk.

    • Oldtimer

      Reds traded Jeff Stevens in 2006 for a talented prospect who was disappointing in another MLB organization.

      His name? Brandon (Dat Dude) Phillips.

  17. Oldtimer

    Off topic but sort of related. Reds must improve by 15 W next season to compete for NL Central. How hard is that?

    https://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/CIN/

    The Reds have improved by 15 or more W nine times in my lifetime (born 1951).

    1955 to 1956. 75 to 91 W. Frank Robinson was ROY in 1956. He was the major change from the prior year.

    1960 to 1961. 67 to 93 W. Trades for ace SP Joey Jay and starters 2B Don Blasingame and 3B Gene Freeze improved Reds greatly.

    1971 to 1972. 79 to 95 W. Trade for 2B Joe Morgan, SP Jack Billingham, and CF Cesar Geronimo created the best of the Big Red Machine teams.

    1984 to 1985. 70 to 89 W. Trades for 3B Buddy Bell and P John Franco plus addition of rookie P Tom Browning were the big improvements.

    1989 to 1990. 75 to 91 W. Trades for Randy Myers and Hal Morris were big additions. But Lou Piniella as Manager was the biggest change.

    1991 to 1992. 74 to 90 W. Trades for P Tim Belcher and Greg Swindell plus OF Bip Roberts were key additions. Reggie Sanders replaced Eric Davis in CF.

    1994 to 1995. 66 to 85 W. Primarily due to playing a full (almost) season in 1995. Added C Benito Santiago. Ron Gant replaced Kevin Mitchell in LF.

    1998 to 1999. 77 to 96 W. Addition of OF Greg Vaughn was huge. Better SP overall, too. Mike Cameron replaced Reggie Sanders in CF.

    2011 to 2012. 79 to 97 W. OF Ryan Ludwick was good addition. So was SP Mat Latos. Zack Cozart was much better SS than Paul Janish.

    In every case above, Reds had experienced GM and Manager. Gabe Paul and Birdie Tebbetts in 1950s. Bill DeWitt and Fred Hutchinson in 1960s. Bob Howsam and Sparky Anderson in 1970s. Bill Bergesch and Pete Rose in 1980s. Bob Quinn and Lou Piniella in early 1990s. Jim Bowden and Davey Johnson or Jack McKeon later in 1990s. Walt Jocketty and Dusty Baker in 2010s.

    It very much remains to be seen whether Nick Krall and Divid Bell will measure up to them. I hope so.