In my “Daily Dose” column this morning I wondered why the Reds decided to have last year’s first-round pick, Mike Leake, completely skip the minors to join their rotation.
To me it makes little sense on several different levels, because at 22 years old giving him a couple months at Double-A or Triple-A would probably be a positive thing for Leake’s development and by doing so the Reds could push back his eventual free agency for an entire year. In other words, what’s the huge rush?
Beyond the long-term development and service time issues, of course, is the question or whether Leake is even ready for the majors right now. Marc Hulet of Fan Graphs scouted Leake in a March 20 spring training start against the Giants and came away unimpressed to say the least:
Leake’s fastball hit 90 mph just once in this three-inning outing. He varied his arm angles to give the hitters different looks but it seemed to throw off his control. The former first rounder’s heater was MLB average at best in this game. His secondary stuff wasn’t fooling anyone, for the most part.
Certainly one poor spring training start isn’t worth focusing on and most people seem to agree that Leake is a very promising pitching prospect with a strong chance to become at least a middle-of-the-rotation starter. However, the larger point is that Leake isn’t an overpowering pitcher and, while often praised for his command and polish, is far from a finished product at age 22.
Why hasten his development, start his service time clock ticking, and throw him right into the big-league fire when the upside is a half-dozen extra starts from a guy who may not even be ready to thrive against major-league hitters yet? If the Nationals can show some patience with Stephen Strasburg, you’d think the Reds could do the same with the guy selected seven picks later.
Incidentally, you can find more of Hulet’s excellent prospect reports every week as part of Rotoworld’s award-winning Season Pass product.