I think you may be selling LeBlanc a tad short. No, he’s not going to be front of the rotation starter. But his fastball velocity has been increasing as he gains confidence and experience, and some of his secondary pitches (changeup in particular) are really good. Also, he’s always shown pretty good control and ability to locate his pitches well.
I think he could be a somewhat above average pitcher, especially given that he’ll be able to play half his games in Petco Park.
It will be interesting to see what happens to LeBlanc when Chris Young comes back. However that may now be a bit further off based on yesterday’s news of a new MRI for Young and the results of said MRI being sent to Dr. James Andrews. It can’t be good for a low payroll team to get nothing from their highest paid players. Young this year and Peavy and Giles last year.
Isn’t his strand rate (now a still high, but at least lower, 90.3%) almost completely offset by his high .353 BABIPA? The higher than expected K/9 and BB/9 rates are still there, but for the most part I think he’s just pitching abnormally effectively rather than actually being all that lucky.
While it’s true that LeBlanc doesn’t have a plus fastball, the big “secret” (as maestro notes) is his changeup which is a plus pitch. According to pitch f/x he has thrown the change 27% of the time this year and has a 17% whiff rate on the pitch. He’s sort of a like a lower-velocity Cole Hamels in this respect, in that the change is the primary weapon and the fastball is really there to set it up. Read up in any of the old Baseball America scouting reports and you will see the change mentioned constantly.
Of course, the lower velocity on the fastball means he needs to command it well to be successful. His first stints, the FB was only about 85mph and he was nibbling too much and got killed when guys would sit on the change. Now, he is more confident, is throwing more like 86-88mph on the FB, and the change is becoming a real weapon.
kvazales is also correct to point out the pickoffs. LeBlanc has an amazing move, and totally shuts down the running game.
Obviously, he isn’t THIS good, but the increased K rate is for real and he can be a solid #3 or 4 starter in the bigs.