Mike Leake burst onto the scene in 2010 as the latest player to make the leap directly into the majors after being drafted. He showed some great promise in his first two MLB seasons. Now, will this level of production continue into 2012?
The 23-year-old relies on mixing up his various pitches for success. He doesn’t have over-powering stuff especially for a right-handed pitcher. His average fastball speed isn’t over 90 MPH. Even though he doesn’t seem to be a strikeout machine, he does get a fairly decent amount of strikeouts with a 6.3 K/9 in 2011. Also, he has the shown great control by having a 2.0 BB/9 for 2011. To top it all off, his GB% of 48% is better than league average. His 2011 stats are similar to his 2010 stats, except his BB/9 improved from 2.9 to 2.0. Combining all these together, he is not great, but a serviceable starter.
For comparison, here are some starters from 2011 with comparable stats.
Those 3 are not exactly elite pitchers.
The one question going forward with Mike is: Can he maintain the low walk rate? Over the past 3 years, only 7 pitchers have a BB/9 below 2.0 (Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Dan Haren, Carl Pavano, Joel Pineiro, Ricky Nolasco and Mark Buehrle). Having a 2.0 BB/9 rate is not easy to maintain. Much of Mike’s value will be determined by keeping his walks minimized.
The other problem I have with him is his durability. First, he is listed at 6’1′ 186 lbs, but he has stated that he is only 5’10”, 175 lbs. He is not the ideal size for a durable starter. He has already shown signs of injury by missing 13 games in 2010 to shoulder surgery.
It does look like the Reds are trying to limit his workload and therefore limit the chance of injury. In 2010, he threw only 138 innings and 167 in 2011. It is the nice 30 IP increase needed in order to counter the injuries alluded to by the Verducci Effect. If the trend continues, he will be around 210 innings in 2012.
Mike Leake has been a great story and is definitely a serviceable fantasy pitcher. I believe that his talent peaked in 2011. He may be able to maintain this level of production for a few more years. I would not give my shirt off my back for any improvement on his 2011 season besides seeing an IP increase.