De Paula Needs To Be Aggressive Again

De Paula knows he needs to limit the walks

TAMPA, FL - Right-hander Rafael De Paula was one of the more dominating pitchers at the low-A level earlier this season but has not been nearly as effective with the high-A Tampa Yankees since his promotion. Teammates and coaches are not too concerned but everybody, including De Paula himself, believes he needs to get back to being aggressive on the mound.

The Yankees started De Paula in the Dominican Summer League in 2012 where he played in 14 games and maintained a low ERA of 1.46. By 2013 the 22-year-old ball player was pitching in Charleston, but was quickly promoted after dominating the South Atlantic League.

De Paula advanced to the single-A Florida State League and since arriving in Tampa the righty has struggled, especially in comparison to his prior two minor league stops.

"In Charleston what I did was pretty good, but I got here to Tampa and you know I felt good, but I just have to keep working and get at it," De Paula said with the help of a translator. "The biggest difference is the hitters.

"The hitters are a little bit better, they hit the pitches a little better and they kind of have a better idea of what I'm throwing so that's been the biggest thing."

Lately, the walks are significantly up for De Paula who is having a rough time staying out of his own head. He walked just 23 batters in a little more than 64 innings for Charleston and has already walked 22 batters in Tampa this season in just 35.2 innings.

Peter O'Brien, a catcher who played with De Paula in Charleston, sees that De Paula still has great stuff to work with, but senses that his teammate might be hitting the proverbial wall in his first full season.

"Maybe the workload is getting on him, but he's still looks good," O'Brien said. "I wouldn't say it's either. I wouldn't say he's struggling, but I guess it's mostly a mental thing. You know, I know even with myself with the jump you try to do a little too much at times and maybe that's what he's trying to do."

It's De Paula's first full year of professional ball and although he's falling off a little, his mechanics are still there.

"I don't think it's anything mechanical," O'Brien added. "I mean, I know the coaching staff does a pretty good job with that. I just think he just needs to keep being aggressive in the zone and keep doing his stuff, and everything will work out."

Tampa Yankees pitching coach Jeff Ware sees that De Paula has great stuff, which includes a fastball, changeup, and slider, but in order to progress the pitcher must learn how to be more aggressive in the strike zone.

"I've seen a lot of good things," Warre said. "He's been really, really good when he's throwing strikes and working down hill. He's gotten in trouble a couple of times. He doesn't get real aggressive in the strike zone with his pitches especially early on.

"His first pitch strikes have been down a little bit, but he's got such good deception with fastball, his breaking ball, and his slider is coming along really well, and his changeup too.

"He just needs to throw and be a little more aggressive with them, throw them over the plate because all three pitches can be quality pitches for him. You know I think maybe when he got promoted up from Charleston to here it maybe have been a little too much and he kind of got away from his own game."

Ware thinks De Paula could be giving too much credit to his opposing batters and is pitching away from contact. Right now Ware is working with De Paula to get ahead of the game, throw over the plate, and get the ball in play so he can start expanding his strike zone.

While De Paula's primary pitch is the fastball, his secondary pitches are still improving.

"It seems like his slider is still improving here," Ware said. "It's just getting it a little more velo and a little bit more quickness, and then his changeup – he's got a pretty good feel with his changeup as long as he keeps it down - he's got some good fade, some good deception with it."

De Paula admits that giving up a run or a walk can get him a little shaken up, but feels he'll have no problem refocusing and doing what he needs to do to help the Tampa Yankees to succeed.

To get back to being the pitcher he was in Charleston Warre would like De Paula to work on repeating his delivery more consistently.

"Repeat delivery," Warre concluded. "I think it's pretty simple with him. One, when he's repeating his delivery it makes him get in the zone better, he works ahead more, and he has the two quality secondary pitches that can put hitters away.

"Unfortunately he only has about three starts left, but I think he will turn around these last few starts. He's learning and realizing what he needs to do to get better to get where he was in Charleston."

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