ROME, GA — The Atlanta Braves right-handed pitching prospect Ricky DeVito made his full season debut on Saturday at State Mutual Stadium against the first-place Augusta GreenJackets. While he only went 3 2/3 innings, the 2019 MLB draft pick showed plenty that makes him a prospect of intrigue.
The Braves promoted DeVito to Rome on August 5 from Danville, with his first start scheduled for Friday, August 9. The rains were not friendly, postponing his full-season debut to Saturday and then delaying it even longer, but when the skies cleared, DeVito debuted to a tough-luck loss.
Just who is the Braves young right-hander who is making quick work of the minors?
Ricky DeVito, college baseball star
DeVito had a standout three-year career at Seton Hall as the ace of the Pirates’ staff. After tossing 15 innings without allowing an earned run as a freshman in 2017, DeVito took home 2018 Big East pitcher of the year honors in his sophomore campaign pitching to a 1.88 ERA with 67 strikeouts and 22 walks in 62.1 innings, holding opponents to a .190 batting average.
He continued his 2018 breakout on the Cape with a strong season with the Harwich Mariners that had sources like D1Baseball rank him amongst the top 10 draft-eligible pitching prospects in the Cape Cod Baseball League. He carried the momentum into 2019, tabbed the Big East preseason pitcher of the year. He didn’t replicate his 2018 campaign, putting up a bad season by the lofty standards he had set the year prior, but by no means terrible. He finished his Seton Hall career 9-8 with a 2.60 ERA and 155 strikeouts in 141.2 innings. The 61 walks were certainly something to watch, but hardly discouraging.
His “down” junior season allowed the Braves to snag DeVito in the eighth round of the 2019 MLB draft.
DeVito’s three-pitch arsenal
The right-hander is listed at 6’3 and 195. The 195 may be a bit generous, but he’s also just 20 years of age, so there is room to fill out and maybe add some more power, which doesn’t seem to be his problem.
His fastball has movement, that’s for certain. At its best it looks like it has some tricky sinking action, and he recorded his first Rome strikeout getting a hitter to chase one that fell out of the zone. He sat 92 for his outing, hitting 94 plenty of times and topping out at 96.
The change is his second-best offering and that’s because he can take so much off of it while throwing it in the same style as the fastball. It sat 85, touching 86 and though seldom used, when it was at it’s best it also moved, diving a bit like the fastball.
His breaking ball was in the low-80s. He couldn’t get too many strikes on them on Saturday and but it looked to have nice drop when he was near the strike zone. It is definitely the pitch he needs to work most on, but it’s about average as it stands now.
The delivery is unusual. He starts near the first base side and there is a toe-tap-slide that he moves his back foot all the way to the first base side. He stays compact through his delivery and he’s a bit wild with his follow through. There seems to be some effort in his delivery as well, but it was also his first start at a new level.
DeVito’s first start with the Rome Braves
Just 11 days shy of his 21st birthday, DeVito made his full-season debut in that same season he was drafted. He came out pumping, fastball-heavy in the first inning. He fell behind 3-1 on the first hitter on four-straight 92 mph fastballs and after getting the ground out, DeVito unleashed the dogs hitting 94, 95, and 96 a couple of times for a 1-2-3 first.
He was cruising through his first 2.2 innings before a Braulio Vasquez error opened the flood gates for the rest of the night. DeVito began to mix in his secondary pitches in the second and third but was still very fastball-heavy throughout. That fastball had movement though, and he was very ground ball heavy, a six-to-one ratio to be precise.
It was consistency that killed him. He landed 39 of his 64 pitches for strikes, which at 61% isn’t all that bad. He would come out and get ahead several times, either 1-2 or 0-2, and would quickly find himself in full counts. To his credit, he never seemed like he labored. He was hitting 94 in his fourth and final inning and was relying on his changeup heavily in his final frame. To his credit, there was nary a hard hit ball until his final inning when Tyler Flores drilled a foul ball and Ricardo Genoves took a 83 mph off-speed that DeVito left hanging way over the left field wall.
His final line: 3.2 IP, 4 H, 5 R (2 ER), 2 BB, 2 K.
If there’s one word to describe DeVito, it’s potential. The box score isn’t pretty, but this Augusta team is the best in the SAL South with a solid lineup and paired with humidity making it feel like 100-degree day, you look for the positives. His best pitches were sharp, so it’s going to be a matter if he can learn how to pound the zone and work the plate successfully on a consistent basis. Here’s to hoping he can.