This upcoming spring will arguably be the most important one for Mike Leake. All eyes will be watching him intently.
When the news that the Good Guys would (once again) attempt to move Aroldis Chapman into the starting rotation, the one name some people immediately figured as gone from the starting five was Leake. No one would argue that his first three seasons in the majors have been a little lackluster. Maybe that is largely due to Leake has spent only a little over a week in the minors…for his career.
And to that point, the Reds did select him as the #8 overall pick in the 2009 draft…and he made the team directly out of spring training in 2010. The placed a large amount of expectations, maybe too lofty of expectations, on the native of Fallbrook, California.
Here’s how those first three seasons have looked…
Overall, it’s not as bad as some may fear.
Last season was the first time Leake had not been removed from the rotation due to his performance as was the case in each of his first two seasons. 2012 saw Leake set personal bests in starts (30) and innings pitched (179), plus tie a high in wins (8). He also allowed a career high 97 runs and 26 home runs while taking a career high 9 losses.
And there is Mike Leake’s three seasons all wrapped up into six stats. There is good and there is bad.
There is more good news. Leake decreased his flyball rate by over 5% (31.7% in 2011 to 26.6% last season) while showing a slight increase in his ground ball rate (47.7% to 48.9%). In having GABP as your home turf, any pitcher must have those in check. That said, Leake’s home/away splits provide almost as much differential as Homer Bailey‘s.
The outlook for Leake in 2013 is cloudy. Some may dispute that point. If he doesn’t make the starting rotation out of spring training, he will likely be relegated to the bullpen. That’s never worked out either. If you think he’s got some less than flattering stats as a starter, look at those from his relief appearances. Those are even less flattering.
I can foresee Leake getting some starts in 2013, but unless the Chapman move fails (and it could), I cannot foresee him getting the 29 starts that Bill James projects. Of course, these projections could have been formulated prior to the news getting out about Chapman. CAIRO has him projected at 23 starts to go along with 2 relief appearances. That may be too many starts as well. This will all depend on how the Reds treat Chapman, his innings, pitch count and all of the other associated ins and outs with the transition to the starting rotation.
One thing is for sure. Leake is a nice insurance policy to have. For a “fifth starter”, he can more than aid the Reds in 2013.