COMMENTARY | His fastball doesn't lie.
After collecting 96 strikeouts in 64 1/3 innings at Class-A Charleston, Yankees prospect Rafael DePaula - once suspended for lying about his age - was recently rewarded with a quick promotion to High-A Tampa, where he added five more Ks to his season total in his first appearance. This week, he was rewarded with a spot on the World Team roster at the Sirius XM All-Star Futures Game on July 14.
Since signing as a non-drafted free agent in 2010, the 22-year-old Dominican native is 14-4 with a 2.13 ERA to go along with a 0.039 WHIP. In 131 minor league innings, he has 187 strikeouts.
DePaula made headlines in 2009, when he was suspended by Major League Baseball for one year for lying about his age. At the time, pitching under the name "Rafael DePaula Figueroa," he insisted that his given birthday was April 1, 1992. However, after producing real documents, it was determined that "Jose Rafael DePaula" was born March 24, 1991.
Following his suspension, in November 2010, the 6-foot-3 right-hander agreed to a $500,000 contract with the Yankees. The U.S. Consulate took 16 months to approve DePaula's visa, thus delaying his minor league debut to last season.
Regardless of his age, there's no question about DePaula's ability to blow batters away. His fastball is routinely clocked in the low to mid-90s while occasionally touching 98-99. He also possesses an above-average curveball and changeup.
Yankees fans shouldn't expect to see the strikeout artist anytime soon in the Bronx. Chad Jennings of the Journal News recently quoted the Yankees' vice president of baseball operations, Mark Newman as saying: "We expected that [De Paula] would pitch well, but he's pitching better than we expected… He's a first-rate kid who works very hard. … (but) he needs time. He's got to develop secondary pitches. He hasn't pitched that much competitively."
Before the season, Baseball America ranked DePaula as the Yankees' 10th-best prospect and described him as "the biggest X-factor" in the team's minor league system with a ceiling as high as any of the Yankees' other minor league pitchers.
Howard Z. Unger is a freelance journalist in Brooklyn, New York. For the past 15 years, he has written about sports, media, and popular culture. His work has appeared in The Village Voice, New York Post, and New York Times.
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