GREENSBORO, NC – One of the biggest standouts in my recent trip to see the Pirates’ High-A affiliate was right-handed pitcher Ricky DeVito.
The Pirates added DeVito at the trade deadline last year, along with Bryse Wilson, when they sent Richard Rodriguez to the Braves. At the time, DeVito was injured, making only five starts in High-A before going down with an ulnar nerve issue with his arm.
Prior to the injury, DeVito posted a 2.66 ERA in 20.1 innings, with a 12.0 K/9 and a 3.1 BB/9 — both improved ratios over his pro debut in 2019.
The Pirates spent most of the 2022 season letting DeVito work through his mechanics out of the bullpen.
“I ended up starting this year out in the bullpen working on some mechanical stuff really to make sure I was healthy, moving right, throwing right on the mound,” said DeVito earlier this month.
There was some concern that the way DeVito decelerated his body was leading to stress on his elbow, starting with his front landing leg.
“It was little something with the front knee stability,” said DeVito. “A lot to get the arm on time, also just kind of got myself synced up there more.”
DeVito started showing improvements with the way he was moving as the season went on. On July 29th, he pitched three shutout innings, giving up one hit, no walks, and striking out five. After four innings in his next outing — with his two runs coming via solo homers — DeVito was moved to the rotation for the remainder of the season.
I saw DeVito pitch four innings on September 1st. After that start, I wrote about how he looked like he was having issues with his front leg, before knowing that he was working on his movements throughout the year. On that day, DeVito was dealing with a few minor body pains, which threw his movements off early in the game, and which left him without his best pitch — his splitter.
“I just felt a little uncomfortable that day, but I was able to work through it and work more with the slider and curveball,” said DeVito.
The outing was fantastic, and even more impressive when hearing the work that DeVito put in to get there. He gave up two runs in four innings, with the damage coming off of a double after a few soft hits. DeVito only walked one, and struck out eight — including his final four batters after the double. He was mostly showing a smooth delivery, with a few slipups early.
“That’s a really nice thing about being able to start and throw more innings, and be able to have three offspeed pitches that I trust altogether,” said DeVito. “Even if I don’t have my best changeup, I still have a ton of trust, and I’ve had a ton of success with the slider and curveball as well.”
The slider is a new pitch this year. DeVito has also ditched his sinker — which he had thrown the previous five years — and is only throwing a four seam fastball to give him a pitch more up in the zone.
“The way I throw the slider kind of pairs pretty well with the changeup,” said DeVito. “I like using those pitches together. I like using a curveball and a fastball together. I feel like it just gives me a ton of options.”
The best pitch from DeVito is his changeup, which is more of a splitter. DeVito learned a circle changeup from his father when he was nine years old. As his hand started getting bigger, he would adjust the pitch and hold it weird, eventually turning the pitch into more of a split changeup. He throws the pitch in a different way, unlike a changeup or a splitter. DeVito pushes the pitch, “knuckleball-ish” as he says, making the pitch unique due to the development of his grip and the delivery.
“Just the way the ball actually spins is very unusual,” said DeVito. “Also, just spin axis wise and everything metric wise, it’s just very different pitch. I’m just grateful the way it’s developed. I didn’t necessarily do it on purpose. It just kind of fell into place like that, but it’s a very good pitch for me.”
The pitch also works off the high, four seam fastball, generating more depth than run due to being a very low spin pitch.
“It’s not a crazy amount of horizontal movement,” said DeVito. “It’s something that does work with more depth.”
DeVito had a 5.27 ERA in 27.1 innings from July 29th through the end of the season. He had 14 walks in those innings, but 34 strikeouts. There were two outings which really blew up his numbers. The first was his first start, at home, where he gave up five runs in 2.1 innings. The second was his final outing of the year, giving up seven runs in three innings. Half of his walks during this span came during these two outings, along with 12 of his 16 earned runs.
It’s possible that these two outings still tell a tale of caution about DeVito. After seeing him pitch — on a day where he didn’t even feel his best — it’s more likely to me that those bad outings are starting to become the outliers.
“Mechanically, I think especially over the past, maybe two months, I’ve made very big improvements with understanding myself, how I move and where I need to be on the mound,” said DeVito of his finish to the season.
To his credit, DeVito knows that he’s been a work-in-progress this year, and that there is more work to be done. That will take place over the offseason.
“The offseason is going to be really about just ingraining those patterns into myself as a pitcher, just making sure that I’m always moving the right way all the pitches same way,” said DeVito.
The numbers this year for DeVito don’t indicate it, but he looks like one of the better sleeper prospects in the lower levels. He’s got an average fastball which sets up a plus slider and his elite changeup. His work this offseason will help to improve the command of all of his pitches, though he can already throw the offspeed pitches for strikes. He showed better control toward the end of the year, with a few issues.
DeVito, who turned 24 in August, will probably fly under the radar for the upcoming Rule 5 draft. He does have a Major League future, possibly as a starter, and will be a sleeper to follow next year in Altoona.
THIS WEEK ON PIRATES PROSPECTS
Tim is the owner, producer, editor, and lead writer of PiratesProspects.com. He has been running Pirates Prospects since 2009, becoming the first new media reporter and outlet covering the Pirates at the MLB level in 2011 and 2012. His work can also be found in Baseball America, where he has been a contributor since 2014 and the Pirates' correspondent since 2019.