At the beginning of the season, we listed Reds’ starter Mike Leake as a player to watch coming into the season. Leake became one of the first players in recent memory to entirely skip the minor leagues, and he has performed admirably, posting an ERA slightly above 3 midway into the season.
But if you are one the lucky people who took a gamble on the young starter, now is the time to consider selling high. Leake has been less impressive in his last several starts, getting tagged for about 4-5 runs in each appearance. While it’s not impossible these numbers will improve, there is a distinct possibility Leake’s numbers will decline the remainder of the season. This is Leake’s first professional season, meaning his inning count will be significantly higher than ever before. Traditionally, this causes a slight drop in second-half production. Moreover, there is a chance the Reds will cap his innings, meaning Leake will be pitching less frequently in the second half on the season.
Leake is still a great long-term candidate in keeper leagues because he should be a $15-20 pitcher next season. Therefore, ignore this advice if you are in a keeper league where your team is not contending. Nevertheless, if your team is contending (or you are in a non-keeper league), now is a good time to consider selling assuming you can pickup a $20-30 non-renewable player in return. I am a Leake owner, and since I doubt I will listen to my own advice, keep in mind there is a chance Leake will be fine. He is not a power pitcher, meaning he could handle a huge increase in innings pitched more effectively than the average pitcher. Nevertheless, if you are looking for an elite renewal to deal, Leake could be good candidate to trade because while his dominating performances are the “real deal”–except a slight drop off until next April.