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Esmerling De La Rosa: Marlin on the Rise

Esmerling De La Rosa should start the 2018 campaign with the New Orleans Baby Cakes.

For the 2016-17 offseason, we counted down the Top 100 all-time Marlins. This offseason, we will instead cast our eyes ahead. I’ll be outlining the Top 100 Marlins prospects, as chosen by you on the ranker.com listing.

Today, we will look into 26-year-old right-hander Esmerling De La Rosa. A native of Santa Domingo, Dominican Republic, he was born on May 15th, 1991. Florida signed him as an international free agent on March 9th, 2010, and would see him debut three months later with the DSL Marlins.

After allowing three earned runs on three hits and three walks in just 1 23 innings in his debut on June 2nd (the DSL Nationals won the game 9-5), De La Rosa held batters to a .147 batting average and a 0.84 ERA over 10 2/3 innings over the rest of the season.

De La Rosa remained with the DSL club for the 2011 campaign, and trimmed his walk rate from 10 in 12 13 innings the season prior to just 13 in 43 23 innings. He racked up a 2-5 record and a 3.92 ERA to go with his 1.397 WHIP and an opposing slash line of .277/.347/.376. On June 29th, in a 4-0 victory over the DSL Mets (1), De La Rosa surrendered a leadoff single in the first inning, then collected 18 straight outs on his way to his first professional victory. He whiffed four. On July 22nd of that year, he tossed four innings of near-perfect relief, allowing just a walk and striking out five in a 2-1 loss to the Yankees (1). Opposing basestealers were only successful on six-of-13 attempts.

In 2012, the then 21-year-old De La Rosa pitched for the GCL Marlins, and put up a 2-3 record, a 2.76 ERA, and a 1.592 WHIP due equally to his walks allowed (13) and hits (13). He did strike out 18 of the 77 batters he faced through the season over 16 13 innings. His high point of the season was probably on July 2nd, when he earned a 6-3 win over the GCL Astros by striking out the side in a hitless sixth inning.

With control still a glaring issue, De La Rosa spent an additional season with GCL in 2013, surrendering nine walks in 17.1 innings. He struck out 21 with a 3.63 ERA and an 0-1 record, with a 1.558 WHIP and a .281/.365/.313 opposing slash line. From July 31st through August 15th, De La Rosa struck out five batters over four perfect relief appearances, not allowing a single baserunner.

The added time at the instructional level did De La Rosa some good, and the Marlins started him with the Greensboro Grasshoppers in 2014. Despite the higher level of competition, De La Rosa improved his metrics drastically, with 55 strikeouts and only 18 walks surrendered in 51 13 innings. He went 5-2 with a 2.28 ERA, a 1.305 WHIP, and a .266/.340/.429 opposing slash line. The improvement was significant in that it came in a season where he also put up a .347 BAbip, indicating he wasn’t the recipient of a lot of lucky bounces. He best game of the season was his last, a 3-1 win against the Kannapolis Intimidators on August 31st. De La Rosa didn’t earn a decision, but he did strike out two while facing the minimum nine batters over three relief innings.

In 2015, De La Rosa spent the Lion’s Share of the campaign with the high-A Jupiter Hammerheads, going 6-4 with a 2.89 ERA in 65.1 innings pitched. He whiffed 55 while walking just 16, with a career best 1.026 WHIP and an opposing slash line of .215/.284/.300. He only allowed one home run during the season. Near the end of the season, he made his way up to the Jacksonville Suns in the double-A Southern League, but failed to inspire confidence in three lackluster appearances. In back-to-back appearances on June 18th and 24th, De La Rosa won both starts in relief, collecting nine strikeouts and allowing no walks and no hits over five innings. He did hit a batter during that time.

De La Rosa spent most of 2016 with the Hammerheads once again, racking up a 3-4 record, a 3.59 ERA, a 1.387 WHIP, and 51 strikeouts in 48 innings, with 23 walks. He earned saves in consecutive appearances near the end of April, over a four game span where he struck out three and surrendered one walk and zero hits in 5 23 innings. He duplicated the trick later in the season, earning two more saves in over a nearly perfect four game stretch, allowing just a hit batsman in 5 13 innings, with six strikeouts from July 16th through 28th.

De La Rosa started the 2017 season back with the Hammerheads for a third campaign, but after putting up a 0.71 ERA, 11 whiffs in 12.2 innings, a 1.026 WHIP and just one walk, the Marlins decided to give him an extended look at double-A. De La Rosa joined the Jumbo Shrimp on May 9th.

After joining Jacksonville, De La Rosa went 2-2 with a 4.33 ERA, 40 whiffs in 35.1 innings, 15 walks, and a 1.358 WHIP. Overall, he slashed .249/.317/.387 between the two levels. His best showing of the season was on May 19th, in a 5-4 win against the Mississippi Braves. De La Rosa earned the win after striking out the side in a perfect ninth inning. He was also the pitcher on the hill when the Shrimp clinched the division title on August 31st this season:

De La Rosa re-signed with the Marlins to another minor league contract after the close of the season. He has since been moved to the New Orleans Baby Cakes roster, and may start the season there or with the Jumbo Shrimp.

Although not a lock to get a look at the major league level, De La Rosa has showed enough for the Marlins to continue to develop the right-hander. He stands an outside shot of making a big-league debut in the 2018 season.