After missing the entirety of the 2019 season with a nerve issue in his right elbow, 20-year-old pitching prospect Yefri Del Rosario will take the bump with something to prove whenever baseball returns. Ranked as the Royals’ 20th best prospect, according to Baseball America, Del Rosario is one of two prospects Kansas City swiped from the Atlanta Braves after their international signing violations in 2018. The product of Miches, Dominican Republic is one of the youngest prospects in the system to have pitched in rookie ball or higher.
Before his injury, the right-hander excelled in his first full season of A-ball in 2018. Following his promotion to Class-A Lexington in June, Del Rosario started 15 games and posted a 3.19 ERA with 72 strikeouts in 79 innings. Additionally, he only walked 29 and limited opposing hitters to a .227 batting average. He closed out the season strong by throwing at least six innings in five of his last six starts. During that final month of August, Del Rosario was 5-0 and surrendered just three runs in 36 innings with 29 strikeouts and 10 walks. He ended his season hurling seven shutout innings in his first career playoff start against Augusta.
Despite his slender frame at 6-foot-2, 180 lbs, Del Rosario is known for his live arm that graded out as 60/80 in his scouting report. Toward the end of the 2018 season, the righty was hitting 97-mph with his fastball and using a slurve as his primary off-speed pitch. His report mentions his change-up as being too firm right now, but the potential of being above-average once he develops.
Every player progresses differently through the minor leagues, and for such a young arm like Del Rosario, there’s no guarantee he cracks the big league roster any time soon. However, there’s an interesting comparison between the 20-year-old and an idol of his - former Royals’ flamethrower Yordano Ventura.
First full season in A-ball:
(20 YO) Yordano Ventura: Kane County Cougars (Midwest League)
Age difference in A: 1.7 years
(18 YO) Yefri Del Rosario: Lexington Legends (South Atlantic League)
Starts: 15 starts
Innings: 79 IP
ERA: 3.19 ERA
Age difference in A: 3.9 years
Take that comparison with a grain of salt. Just because the two turned in similar seasons at the same level doesn’t indicate Del Rosario will be Ventura or better than him. Ventura was a one-of-a-kind talent. His fastball graded out as an 80 and his curveball was deemed “unhittable at times”. But the two right-handers received similar reports from scouts at different points in their minor league careers.
Del Rosario: “The stuff was plenty good as well, with Del Rosario hitting 97-mph with his fastball and showing the potential for more velocity as he adds strength. His breaking ball is a bit of a hybrid between a curve and slider, but it’s sharp and hard and misses bats. His changeup, though currently too firm, has the chance to be above-average when all is said and done.”
2013 report from Bernie Pleskoff (Ventura in Triple-A)
Ventura: “The undersized right-hander has one of the best fastballs in the Minors, sitting in the upper-90s with ease. His hammer of a curve can be unhittable at times. There’s deception with his changeup, but it’s fairly straight at this point in time, but it could be a Major League average pitch in the future. He can always improve his overall command, but he misses plenty of bats with his fastball-curve combination.”
For Del Rosario to garner Ventura-like attention post-2020, he’s going to need to make a considerable jump this season. After his first full season in A-ball in 2011, Ventura jumped into the Top 101 prospect list for the first time at #95 in 2012 and appeared in the Futures Game at Kauffman Stadium. He shot up to #35 in 2013 and debuted for the Royals in September at the age of 22.
Of course, the next year he was blowing up the radar gun in the ALDS and saving Kansas City from elimination in the World Series.
Due to his setback in 2019, I assume Del Rosario makes a few starts with Lexington before joining Wilmington in High-A. Though the spotlight currently shines on Kansas City’s top arms such as Brady Singer, Jackson Kowar, Daniel Lynch, and Kris Bubic, Del Rosario has the opportunity to add his name to that list if he can stay healthy in 2020.