The Dodgers finally answered the question of when they were going to promote right-hander Jose De Leon by announcing that he'll make his long-awaited debut with a Sunday start against the Padres.
It's unclear why it took so long to summon De Leon in a season in which Los Angeles already has used 14 different starters, including four rookies. All that matters now is whether the No. 35 prospect on MLBPipeline.com's Top 100 list can plug another hole in the Dodgers' rotation and help the club maintain its slim two-game lead over the Giants in the National League West.
De Leon has risen from the 24th round of the 2013 Draft to the big leagues in little more than three years. After signing for $35,000 out of Southern, he got rocked in his introduction to pro ball, posting a 6.96 ERA in the short-season Rookie league. That spurred him to spend a lot more time working on his mechanics and his conditioning, a commitment that began to pay off in '14.
De Leon was the Rookie-level Pioneer League Pitcher of the Year that season, and he broke Clayton Kershaw's low Class A Great Lakes single-game strikeout record with 14 after a mid-August promotion. He topped the Minors in strikeout rate (12.8 per nine innings) and ascended to Double-A Tulsa in 2015.
This season didn't start as smoothly, as De Leon missed April with an ankle injury and most of May with shoulder inflammation, but he has gone 4-0 with a 1.30 ERA and a 46/4 K/BB ratio in 41 2/3 innings over his last six starts at Triple-A Oklahoma City. His overall record this year is 7-1 with a 2.61 ERA and a 111/20 K/BB ratio in 86 1/3 innings, and if he had pitched enough to qualify, he'd be leading the Pacific Coast League in ERA, strikeout rate (11.6), opponent average (.194) and WHIP (0.94).
De Leon, 24, has two offerings that miss a lot of bats. His fastball sits at 92-94 mph and can reach 96 mph with riding life that makes it difficult for hitters to catch up to. Since he has turned pro, his changeup has progressed from an afterthought to one of the best in the Minors.
De Leon's third pitch is a low-80s slider that's decent. He's not a towering figure on the mound at 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds, he doesn't have a lot of downhill angle on his pitches and he has been a fly-ball pitcher in the Minors. De Leon hasn't been particularly vulnerable to home runs, however, and Dodger Stadium is friendly to pitchers.
The Dodgers haven't disclosed their plans for De Leon beyond Sunday, whether it's a one-game cameo or if they'll give him a longer look in the rotation. But their starting pitching is still in a state of great flux, with Kershaw and Brett Anderson on Minor League rehab assignments, Rich Hill battling blister issues and rookies Julio Urias and Ross Striplingwell past their 2015 innings totals.
For the short term, De Leon's minor injuries this season leave him with plenty of innings in the tank. He has the stuff and possible opportunity to work his way into Los Angeles' postseason rotation. In the future, he could develop into a No. 2 or 3 starter.
Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.