Daniel Ponce de Leon

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Daniel Robert Ponce de Leon

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Biographical Information[edit]

Pitcher Daniel Ponce de Leon was drafted four times, each time from a different educational institution, before beginning his pro career in 2014. Coming out of a high school, the Tampa Bay Rays took him in the 24th round in 2010. In 2012, he was a 38th round selection by the Cincinnati Reds out of Cypress College, then in 2013, he was taken by the Chicago Cubs in the 14th round from the University of Houston. After transferring to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, FL, he was picked by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 9th round of the 2014 amateur draft and finally signed.

He began his pro career in the New York-Penn League, with the State College Spikes, going 3-3, 2.44 in 12 games. He followed that with an excellent season in 2015, when he was 11-2 between the Peoria Chiefs of the Midwest League and the Palm Beach Cardinals of the Florida State League. In 20 games, he pitched 119 innings with an ERA of 2.12 and 87 strikeouts. He moved to the Springfield (MO) Cardinals of the Texas League in 2016 and was 9-8, 3.52 in 27 games, with 122 K's in 151 innings.

Ponce de Leon seemed to be on the brink of reaching the Show when a freak incident almost ended his career - and maybe his life - on May 9, 2017. He was pitching for the Memphis Redbirds of the Pacific Coast League against the Iowa Cubs when he was hit in the head by a line drive off the bat of Victor Caratini. He had started the year off well, going 2-0, 2.17 in his first five starts when the 2nd inning hit took him out of the game. He was driven to a hospital in Des Moines, IA as a precaution, but it was discovered the damage was more significant than a simple concussion, as he had to undergo emergency brain surgery to relieve bleeding and swelling in the brain, a condition that could have proved fatal if left untreated. He managed to recover enough to work himself back into form and even throw some batting practice before the end of the year, but did not see any more game action. He was expected to be ready to resume his playing career with no restrictions in 2018.

Ponce de Leon went 5-2, 2.41 in his first 12 games for Memphis in 2018 and was tied for second in the PCL with 71 strikeouts in 59 2/3 innings when he was called up to St. Louis on June 11th. However, he was sent back to the minors three days later without having appeared in a game, and he had to wait another month to make his debut. It came on July 23rd, and it was a beauty, as he tossed 7 no-hit innings in a start against the Cincinnati Reds. He was lifted after making 116 pitches, but his successors on the mound gave up a hit in the 8th and a pair of runs in the 9th and the Cards lost the game, 2-1.

Further Reading[edit]

  • Jenifer Langosch: "Poncedeleon sees silver lining from freak injury: Righty focused on positives during long road to recovery following brain surgery", mlb.com, December 25, 2017. [1]
  • Joe Trezza: "After comebacker, Poncedeleon ready to pitch: Cardinals right-hander in camp following recovery from fractured skull", mlb.com, February 24, 2018. [2]
  • Joe Trezza: "Cards summon Poncedeleon to cap comeback", mlb.com, June 11, 2018. [3]

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