Player to Watch: Mike Leake

Player to Watch: Mike Leake

Reds Pitcher Mike Leake made his Major League debut today, becoming only the 21st player in Major League history to skip the minor leagues.  On the whole, Leake’s first start was impressive.  He took a no-decision while limiting the Cubs to one run in 6 2/3 innings. 

Leake is an intriguing prospect.  He posted impressive collegiate numbers, finishing with a junior campaign where he went 16-1 with an ERA of 1.71.  Standing at only 6’0 and 180 pounds, Leake is not physically imposing.  But his impressive performance in the Pac 10 drew comparisons to Tim Lincecum, another undersized pitcher who went under the radar while dominating his collegiate competition.

It is premature to compare Leake to Lincecum, and besides, they are extremely different style pitchers.  Lincecum is a “master of body throwing,” which allows him to generate velocity comparable to the league’s best pitchers.  Leake relies upon control and his ability to confidently throw multiple pitches in any situation.    But Leake is distinguishable from other college “finesse pitchers” (i.e., Jeremy Sowers) whose style did not translate successfully to the major leagues.  Leake throws around 92 mph, meaning he should strikeout enough batters to be successful.       

Despite allowing only one run, Leake’s debut raised several concerns.  The seven walks were surprising.  Leake cannot be successful walking this many hitters.   But there is reason to believe the seven walks are an aberration because Leake was an outstanding control pitcher in college.  For example, last season, he struck out 162 batters while issuing 24 walks.  Another concern is Leake being allowed to throw 107 pitches during his debut (note: the linked story from “The Onion” is pretty funny).  Leake is a workhorse pitcher, but he could run into problems throwing that many pitches as he translates into a schedule where he is throwing every five days.   The final concern is Aroldis Chapman waiting in AAA.  Leake is the fifth starter, and Homer Bailey is out of options (I think).  Without an injury to another starter, Leake will need to be excellent to hold off Chapman.   

Nevertheless, in Deep Leagues, Leake is a great option to pickup in your draft or among free agents if available.