DeJesus an All-Star in His Customary Role
When young high school and college baseball players arrive in professional baseball there is usually that period of a learning curve while they adapt to the tougher competition. Luis DeJesus, the 20-year old right-hander in the Cleveland Indians organization has met early success in his professional baseball career in large part to the fact he has found out what kind of player he is.
DeJesus a native of Diboll, Texas, a small town about two hours north of Houston was a lifelong fan of baseball as he grew up rooting for the Houston Astros. Like a majority of his teammates, baseball wasn’t the only sport he grew up playing. ”Baseball has always been my number one sport, that and soccer,” DeJesus said. “I grew up playing both when I was four, as I got older it got kind of hard on me and I chose baseball over soccer but I still like soccer a lot too.”
He was a standout performer at Lufkin High School, where he played as a starter and first baseman. In fact, in 2009 during his junior year he helped his high school become runner up in the Texas baseball championship. Following high school graduation in 2010, DeJesus prepared to continue his baseball career at the college level. “Out of high school I got some offers to some small DI schools but I didn’t want to get locked in for three years,” DeJesus said. “I wanted to go ahead and get into a farm system and I thought JUCO was a good choice for me.”
That school turned out to be Angelina Junior College, a close to home school with a record of producing talented arms, as fellow Cleveland Indian Josh Tomlin and Boston Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz had both donned a Roadrunner’s uniform. During his one year in JUCO, the right-hander proved to have solid stuff as he tossed a no-hitter in his collegiate debut. What followed for DeJesus was more dominance on the mound as he finished his rookie year with a 1.99 ERA through 45 innings.
After wrapping up his solid freshman year, DeJesus signed a letter of intent to attend Oklahoma State. “I liked JUCO but you know you pretty much got to do your own thing,” DeJesus said. “I thought I had a better chance to improve myself at a Division 1 school where they have programs you can follow.”
Oklahoma State would have loved to have the young righty but instead he was greeted by an unexpected surprise come draft day. “I was at my house actually on the computer I mean I didn’t think I had a chance to get drafted. I actually fell asleep and my brother was next to the speakers he had it turned up and all of sudden they said, “Eleventh round Cleveland selects Luis DeJesus out of Diboll, Texas,” DeJesus recalled. “I went crazy and I ran outside. I think it was a blessing that I was drafted.”
It wasn’t even a question for Luis; he quickly signed with the Indians and got his professional career started in rookie ball in Arizona. He ended up appearing in 13 games, nine of which were starts. He posted a record of 3-2 to the tune of a 3.33 ERA over 46 innings in which he allowed 20 runs on 47 hits while striking out 45 and only walking 11. He finished the season ranked second in the Arizona League with a WHIP of 1.13. It was an excellent professional debut for the youngster. “I went out there kind of nervous. I didn’t know what to expect it was my first year but I got into my groove and told myself I know what kind of pitcher I am.”
Fast forward to 2012 and the 20-year-old right-hander was called upon for a unique role as a reliever in Lake County. “They pretty much told me ‘Luis we need pitching as soon as possible and you are going to be relieving.’ I’ve never relieved in my life especially going to Lake County and relieving. I didn’t have a routine,” DeJesus said. During his short stint, he logged 12 innings out of the pen in Lake County with a 7.50 ERA. He allowed 11 runs on 15 hits while striking out 12 and walking six.
Following that stint he found himself assigned to Mahoning Valley Scrappers at the outset of their season as a starter. From the beginning, DeJesus looked more comfortable back in a position he was accustomed to and with a group of guys he knew better. “Up there I didn’t feel like myself, I got a lot of butterflies out up there and then came down to Mahoning and it feels like a family.” The teammate he seems to know the best in Mahoning Valley is catcher Charlie Valerio. “It’s like he reads my mind, I don’t think I’ve had a game where I shook him off one time.”
The numbers certainly read well for DeJesus through 10 starts this season he owns a record of 4-1 with a 1.93 ERA, good for seventh best in the New York-Penn League. He has logged 56 innings over those 10 starts in which he’s struck out 36 and walked just 11. Opposing batters are hitting just .198 off the right-hander this season, which is a huge reason he’s been able to keep runs of the board all season and continue to turn in quality starts.
The 20-year-old 6-3, 171 pound right-hander has not gone unnoticed either as he was recently made an Indians Minor League Player of the Week for the week of July 28-August 5. On the heels of that honor, he was also named to the NYPL All-Star team and tagged as the American League’s starter. “Yea man it’s a blessing you know at the beginning of the season I didn’t think I was going to come in and be an all-star,” DeJesus said with a smile. “I just feel like I found myself earlier in the season I just learned to live low and throw strikes.”
The youngster certainly has a lot to be excited about with all the recent accolades coming his way but he manages to stay humble in the midst of it all and keep the level head needed to continue to be a success. “I don’t think of myself as an all-star, all my life I’ve been an underdog,” DeJesus said earnestly. “I know I have to work hard to get it to where I want to and you know all this is unexpected to me you know hard work pays off.”