Who needs the minors? Mike Leake thriving in Cincinnati

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I criticized the Reds for having 2009 first-round pick Mike Leake completely skip the minors to join the Opening Day rotation, but so far the decision certainly looks like a good one.
Cincinnati is in first place and Leake became the latest pitcher to shut down the Astros with six scoreless innings yesterday, cutting his ERA to 2.45 with his ninth Quality Start in 10 tries.
Billed as a smart pitcher who made up for his lack of fastball velocity by throwing strikes and changing speeds with a five-pitch arsenal, Leake has been exactly that. His fastball has averaged just 88.7 miles per hour, but he’s thrown four different off-speed pitches at least nine percent of the time. Leake initially struggled with control, walking 12 in his first two starts, but has handed out a total of just 13 free passes in eight starts since.
He hasn’t pitched quite as well as the 2.45 ERA would suggest, as his 45/25 K/BB ratio in 66 innings is mediocre and Leake has been pretty fortunate in terms of the defense turning balls in play into outs and his stranding runners on base when they don’t. With that said, his Expected Fielding Independent Pitching (xFIP) stands at 4.06, which is impressive for a 22-year-old with zero minor-league experience.
While nothing special his strikeout rate of 6.1 per nine innings is decent and he’s induced a good number of ground balls, so despite my skepticism about Leake being ready and some less-than-glowing scouting reports, he’s certainly looked like a potential No. 2 starter long term. Better yet, so far Dusty Baker has taken it easy with Leake’s workload, as he’s topped 100 pitches just three times with a high of 106.
Whether that’s Baker finally realizing that running young pitchers into the ground makes little sense or someone higher up on the Reds’ organizational food chain giving him those orders, it’s good news for the rookie right-hander who beat No. 1 pick Stephen Strasburg to the majors by two months (and counting).

Rays acquire Wilmer Font from Athletics

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In a less-notable move on Friday, the Rays acquired right-hander Wilmer Font from the Athletics in exchange for minor league right-hander Peter Bayer. Font was designated for assignment by the A’s on Wednesday.

This is the second trade involving the righty since the start of the season. The Athletics acquired 28-year-old Font from the Dodgers in late April, but were underwhelmed by his performance after he racked up 11 runs, five home runs, four walks and nine strikeouts in his first 6 2/3 innings of relief. While the rookie has yet to prove himself at the big league level, he posted a much more respectable pitching line with the Dodgers’ Triple-A affiliate in 2017, going 10-8 in 25 starts with a 3.42 ERA, 2.3 BB/9 and 11.9 SO/9 in 134 1/3 innings. It’s still unclear whether the Rays intend to give him another opportunity in the majors this year or use him as depth in the minors.

Bayer, 24, is still a ways away from cracking any major league roster. He advanced to High-A Charlotte prior to the trade and allowed eight runs, two homers, six walks and six strikeouts in his first four innings.