CHASE DE JONG, RIGHT HANDED PITCHER
|Born: December 29, 1993
Drafted: 2nd Round, 81st overall pick, 2012 (Blue Jays)
How Acquired: Minor League Free Agent
High School: Woodrow Wilson HS (Long Beach, CA)
WTM’s PLAYER PROFILE
|Toronto drafted De Jong out of high school with the idea that he had good projection. His stuff hasn’t developed much, though, and instead he relies on command of average-ish stuff. His fastball has been mainly around 89-91 mph, although it averaged 93 in his three appearances in 2020. He also throws a slider, curve and change. In 2020, he sharply increased his slider and curve usage while cutting his fastball usage to 47%. He’s generally had low walk rates, but also has missed few bats since he got above rookie ball. He’s a flyball pitcher and has had sometimes significant trouble with gopher balls. Since 2017, he’s mostly struggled at AA and above. The Pirates signed him to a minor league deal for 2021, then brought him back in 2022 the same way.
De Jong made six relief appearances in a brief debut, doing very well. Baseball America ranked him 22nd in the Jays’ system after the season.
The Jays used De Jong mostly as a starter in advanced rookie ball. He had an excellent season, with outstanding walk and K rates. BA moved him up to 11th in the Jays’ system.
De Jong spent the season in the rotation in low A and didn’t have a strong season. He continued to throw strikes but got hit fairly hard, with opponents posting an .803 OPS against him. BA rated him 17th in the system.
The Jays sent De Jong back to low A and he pitched much better, getting his K rate up much higher. In July, Toronto traded him to the Dodgers for international slot money, which they needed to cover their signing of Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. The Dodgers sent him to high A, where he pitched well given the environment of the California League. BA rated him 16th in a strong Dodgers’ system.
De Jong had a strong season in AA, although his K rate wasn’t outstanding. The Dodgers added him to the roster after the season. BA ranked him 25th in the system, apparently due to reservations about his stuff.
Early in spring training, the Dodgers traded De Jong to Seattle. The Mariners shuttled De Jong back and forth between the majors and AAA for about half the season, partly due to injuries in the majors. He struggled at both locations, mostly pitching as a starter, with low K rates and problems with gopher balls. In early August, Seattle moved De Jong down to AA, where he also struggled. BA rated him 16th in a weak Seattle system.
Seattle sent De Jong to AA and he pitched better, but hardly dominated. At the deadline, the Mariners sent him to Minnesota for Zach Duke. The Twins moved him up to AAA and he pitched somewhat better. He got a September callup and got solid results, although still without missing many bats. After the season, the Twins outrighted De Jong to AAA.
De Jong started the season with the Twins and had one rough outing. Minnesota sent him to AAA and he got hammered, giving up an average of better than a home run every three innings. The Twins released him in July and he caught on with Sugar Land of the Atlantic League, where he continued to pitch poorly.
De Jong returned to pitching for Sugar Land and did much better, missing a lot of bats. In early August, Houston signed him to a minor league contract, then called him up late in the month. Houston transferred him back and forth between the majors and their training site, giving him two starts and a relief appearance in the majors. Possibly due to a sharply increased usage of breaking balls, he missed a lot of bats, but he walked a lot and overall didn’t pitch at all well. Houston outrighted him to AAA after the season and he elected free agency.
De Jong had a surprisingly strong spring for the Pirates and didn’t get reassigned until shortly before the season started. He started four games for Indianapolis and pitched well, then the Pirates called him up at the end of May. He started nine games for them, but in mid-July he went on the injured list after being struck in the knee by a line drive. He wasn’t able to return. In his nine starts, De Jong mostly struggled. As with nearly all of the Pirates’ fifth-starter types, home runs were a big problem; he allowed 11, one every four innings. Opponents put up a 280/354/589 line against him, with left-handed batters blasting him for a .660 slugging average and 1.041 OPS.
The Pirates outrighted De Jong to AAA after the season. He became a free agent but re-signed with them on a minor league deal for 2022. In mid-April, the Pirates sent Roansy Contreras to AAA in a service-time-manipulation move and called up De Jong. Apart from missing about half of July with a knee injury, De Jong spent the rest of the season with the Pirates. In fact, he finished second on the team in relief innings. Pitching in middle relief, by early September he had an ERA of 1.82. Unfortunately, the Pirates at that point found themselves without anybody capable of pitching in late-inning, high-leverage situations, thanks to their focus entirely on middle relievers and low-ceiling waiver claims. They tried De Jong in the role and he blew a couple of multi-run, ninth-inning leads. Whether De Jong can repeat what was still a good season is questionable. He didn’t miss many bats and benefited from an unsustainable .222 BABIP. He was also helped by a high strand rate of 86.3%. As a result, his xFIP was much higher than his ERA, at 4.96, and FanGraphs considered him below replacement level for the year.
The Pirates will probably go into 2023 relying on De Jong as a key part of their bullpen. If so, the risk is that it’ll contribute to a continuing refusal to try to come up with legitimate, late-inning relievers. You’d like to think they learned something from the problems their bullpen created in the last two month of 2022.
|2023: Major League Minimum|
|Signing Bonus: $860,000
MiLB Debut: 2012
MLB Debut: 4/5/2017
MiLB FA Eligible: N/A
MLB FA Eligible: 2027
Rule 5 Eligible: N/A
Added to 40-Man: 11/18/2016
Options Remaining: 0 (USED: 2017, 2018, 2020)
MLB Service Time: 2.063
|June 5, 2012: Drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 2nd round, 81st overall pick; signed on July 1.
July 2, 2015: Traded by the Toronto Blue Jays with Tim Locastro to the Los Angeles Dodgers for three international bonus slots.
November 18, 2016: Contract purchased by the Los Angeles Dodgers.
March 1, 2017: Traded by the Los Angeles Dodgers to the Seattle Mariners for Drew Jackson and Aneurys Zabala.
July 30, 2018: Traded by the Seattle Mariners with Ryan Costello to the Minnesota Twins for Zach Duke and cash.
January 30, 2019: Designated for assignment by the Minnesota Twins; outrighted to AAA on February 6.
July 12, 2019: Released by the Minnesota Twins.
August 6, 2020: Signed as a minor league free agent by the Houston Astros.
August 23, 2020: Called up by the Houston Astros.
October 30, 2020: Outrighted to AAA by the Houston Astros; elected free agency.
January 6, 2021: Signed as a minor league free agent by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
May 30, 2021: Called up by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
November 5, 2021: Outrighted to AAA by the Pittsburgh Pirates; elected free agency on November 7.
March 15, 2022: Signed as a minor league free agent by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
April 21, 2022: Called up by the Pittsburgh Pirates.