There was a possibility that a certain pitcher would skip the minor leagues to win a spot in the Reds rotation this spring, just nobody — or nearly nobody — expected it to be 2009 first-round pick Mike Leake. But he will.
Leake will become the first drafted pitcher to skip the minor leagues altogether since Dodgers pitcher Darren Dreifort in 1994, according to Mark Sheldon of MLB.com. Reds manager Dusty Baker made it official on Friday afternoon.
“It’s kind of surreal right now,” Leake said. “It has to soak in a
Because he signed last August, the 22-year-old right-hander didn’t make his pro debut until the Arizona Fall League, posting a 1.37 ERA and 15/3 K/BB ratio over 19 2/3 innings. As a result, he was a relative longshot to crack the rotation this spring. The Reds changed their minds after he posted a 3.00 ERA and 10/4 K/BB ratio over 18 innings, showing maturity beyond his years. He outlasted the likes of Aroldis Chapman, Travis Wood, Kip Wells, Matt Maloney and Micah Owings for the assignment.
Christian Yelich simply can’t be stopped. The Brewers outfielder (and defending NL MVP) entered Saturday’s game with a league-leading 11 home runs after swatting two against the Dodgers on Friday night, then clubbed another two homers in the first six innings of Saturday’s game.
The first came on a 2-1 pitch from the Dodgers’ Hyun-Jin Ryu, who lobbed a changeup toward the bottom of the strike zone before it was lifted up and out to center field for a solo home run in the third inning.
While Chase Anderson and Alex Claudio held down the fort against the Dodgers’ lineup, Yelich prepared for his second blast in the sixth inning — this one a 421-foot double-decker on a first-pitch curveball from Ryu.
Yelich’s 13 home runs not only gave him a stronger grip on the league’s leaderboard, but helped him tie yet another franchise record, too. Per MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy, he’s tied with Prince Fielder for the most home runs hit by a Brewers player in a single month, and sits just one home run shy of tying Álex Rodríguez’s 2007 record for most home runs hit within any club’s first 22 games of the season.
It may be far too early to predict which players will finish first in the MVP races this fall, but there’s no denying Yelich has already set himself apart from the competition. Through Saturday’s performance, he’s batting .361/.459/.880 with a 1.329 OPS and MLB-best 31 RBI across 98 PA so far.