Ricky DeVito hoped to continue his baseball career at a Power Five school after he completed his four-year high school career in Staten Island, New York. He had confidence in his pitching abilities but received little exposure playing in the Northeast.
Seton Hall offered DeVito a scholarship before he even delivered a pitch at the varsity level. He was unsure about Seton Hall at first, thinking he could play at a major baseball school. But after examining the opportunity closer, he realized it was the right fit for him.
He verbally committed to Seton Hall as a high school junior in Jan. 2015. He hadn’t played varsity baseball until a couple of months after accepting Seton Hall’s offer.
“I committed and never looked back,” he said. “I’ve never regretted it. I love being here.”
DeVito isn’t an unknown prospect anymore. The right-handed pitcher won Big East Pitcher of the Year honors last year and is one of the top arms in college baseball this season.
His success in his first two years at Seton Hall also has caused professional scouts to classify him as a likely early-round pick in June’s MLB draft.
“It’s fun stuff and cool to see my name on lists, but it’s in the back of my head,” DeVito said. “Sometimes I think about it, but it isn’t something I worry about.”
DeVito, a 6-foot-3, 195-pound right-hander, creates deception with his delivery and boasts a four-pitch mix, featuring a four-seam fastball, sinker, changeup and curveball.
His changeup and curveball have above-average potential. He said they’re pitches he’s thrown since he was about 9 years old and has kept nearly the same grip with those pitches since he learned them. The comfort level has allowed him to throw the pitches with confidence his first two years at Seton Hall.
Last summer in the Cape Cod League, DeVito started throwing a four-seam fastball. He watched videos of major league pitchers Justin Verlander and Jacob deGrom and how they used their fastballs to attack hitters.
In addition to using the four-seamer to set up his secondary pitches, he also plans on throwing it late in counts to surprise opposing batters this season, he said.
“Being able to use that four-seam as a threat adds a fourth pitch in hitters’ minds and allows me to challenge them with that,” DeVito said. “They then can’t sit on a breaking pitch. It is such a different look because of the spin rate, and I was very successful with it.”
In the offseason, DeVito dedicated time to refining his mechanics, he said. He worked on becoming less rotational when he finishes his delivery and instead wants to stay forward through the baseball so he’s facing home plate, he added.
He believes it’ll help his command and limit the amount of walks he surrenders this season.
“I’m trying to eliminate walks,” DeVito said. “Walks are the dumbest thing ever. Free bases when the odds are against them at all times. They aren’t probably going to get on anyways so putting them on with a walk is never a good idea.”
DeVito started his college career in the bullpen. As a freshman in 2017, the righty didn’t allow a run while striking out 20 batters and walking eight in 15 innings (12 appearances) of work.
He also made 12 appearances last season, but this time, it was solely as a starting pitcher. He recorded a 1.88 ERA with 67 strikeouts and 22 walks allowed in 62 1/3 innings.
Despite high expectations this season, DeVito has made one start, which came against Ohio State on Feb. 15. He allowed one run, three hits and three walks while striking out one batter in four innings of work.
Seton Hall said the coaches are “just giving him a little rest” and that he doesn’t have an injury. He’s expected to return to game action “soon.”
Once he returns, DeVito believes he can duplicate last year’s success.
“I have a lot of confidence in my stuff,” he said. “I got the opportunity to start last year and had a lot of confidence going into it. It has just all come together.”
Dan Zielinski III has covered the MLB draft for four years. He’s interviewed 133 of the top draft prospects in that period, including three No. 1 overall picks. Multiple publications, including Baseball America, USA Today and The Arizona Republic, have quoted his work, while he’s appeared on radio stations as a “MLB draft expert.” Follow him on Twitter @DanZielinski3.