Right-handed pitcher Justin De Fratus, a California native, who was drafted in the 11th round in the 2007 amateur draft, has shown steady progression since signing his first professional contract with the Phillies.
In 2007, as a member of the rookie level Gulf Coast League Phillies, De Fratus posted a 2-3 record with a 4.30 ERA and a .273 batting average against in 10 games, 8 of which were starts.
The following season, De Fratus pitched with the short season Low A Williamsport Crosscutters. In 14 games as a starter, the man known to his brothers and friends as J-Bone went 6-5 with a 3.67 ERA and a .260 batting average against.
In 2009, De Fratus was a key piece of the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws pitching staff, taking on both starting and relief duties. In 36 games (12 starts) that season, De Fratus went 5-6 with 3 saves, a 3.19 ERA and a .258 batting average against.
After beginning the 2010 regular season with High-A level Clearwater and posting a 2-0 record with 15 saves and a 1.79 ERA in 29 games, De Fratus was promoted to Double A Reading in early July. Over the last two months of the season, as a member of the R-Phils, he went 1-0 with 6 saves and a 2.19 ERA in 20 games. Combined at the two levels and pitching exclusively out of the bullpen, opponents batted .208 against De Fratus.
De Fratus stayed hot throughout the off-season, pitching for Team USA in the Pan-American qualifiers held in Puerto Rico, helping the Americans finish with a 9-1 record. He also posted exceptional statistics for the Mesa Solar Sox in the Arizona Fall League, holding opponents to a .125 batting average in 7 scoreless outings.
Often recognized for his control, De Fratus walks very few batters. However, he has seen a small increase in his free passes, as the Phillies have had him working on throwing pitches out of the zone, trying to bait opponents into chasing pitches, rather than pitching to contact. De Fratus in his minor league career has averaged 1.77 walks per 9 innings, in 109 total regular season games.
His improved ability to get batters to chase has increased his strike out rates. While De Fratus averaged 7.51 strike outs per 9 innings through his first two season in the minors, De Fratus has bumped that number up to 8.84 strike outs per 9 in his past two seasons and shot up to 9.83 K/9 in 2010 alone.
De Fratus' pitch repertoire includes a fastball that maxes out at 96 MPH, a slider and a solid change up.
While in the AFL, De Fratus was focused on improving his slider that he felt was lacking at times in 2010. Former Major League hurler Ricky Bones, the pitching coach for the Solar Sox, worked closely with De Fratus and adjusted his grip to help restore his confidence in the pitch.
The 23-year-old De Fratus, who projects to be an impact late inning reliever, now feels that his secondary pitches have progressed extremely well and believes in each of the weapons in his arsenal.
"My trust is really based on what the situation calls for. I'm confident to throw any of my pitches at any time...as long as I feel it's the right pitch," De Fratus said this week.
De Fratus, who stands 6-feet-4-inches tall and weighs about 220 pounds entering spring training, will be striving to prove himself to Phillies coaches in big league camp, down in Clearwater. De Fratus stands a great chance of being Philadelphia's premiere impact prospect this coming season. If he doesn't make the opening day roster, expect De Fratus to get his shot at some point later in the season. The Phillies have averaged 20 pitchers a season in recent years according to team general manager Ruben Amaro Jr., and De Fratus is primed to be one of those hurlers in 2010.
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