Jul 28, 2015; St. Louis, MO, USA; Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
We’ve all heard the news of Mike Leake being traded from the Cincinnati Reds to the San Francisco Giants by now. So, what is the scouting report on the California native, and what do San Francisco fans have to look forward to?
First and foremost, Leake was taken as the eighth overall pick by the Cincinnati Reds in the 2009 MLB Draft. Leake did not waste much time, as he made his Major League debut on April 11, 2010 as a 22-year-old with no time spent in the Minors.
He has a career 62-47 record with a 3.87 ERA, but it’s worth noting that pitching at his hitter-friendly home field of Great American Ballpark made his home starts a struggle. The pitcher-friendly confines of AT&T Park should serve him well.
Leake is a sinker-ball pitcher, similar to Tim Hudson and Chris Heston. According to The Baseball Cube, Leake has thrown the fastball just 10.96% of the time in 2015. A closer look on Leake’s mechanics and movement:
When the former Arizona State Sun Devil does throw his four-seam fastball, Giants fans can expect a low-90s offering with some tail. As Leake has continued to mature and strengthen his arm, his fastball velocity has increased every year since 2010 (2010: 88.66 mph, 2015: 90.50 mph). Because of his three-quarters arm slot, Leake gives the baseball an inverse grip that leads to a sinking fastball. Leake’s sinker will tail into the hands of right-handed hitters and away from lefties. The 27 year-old throws his sinker 38.44% of the time.
Feb 26, 2015; Goodyear, AZ, USA; Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Leake has transformed into a pitcher rather than a thrower—he worked hard to be able to change his grips and release in order to be able to move the ball each and every direction. He has recently learned to throw a cutter that he throws 20.54% of the time.
As for his off-speed pitches, Leake throws a tight-breaking slider 10.84% and a sweeping curveball 9.65% of the time. The last pitch in Leake’s arsenal is his circle-change up that he throws the least frequently at just 9.57% of the time.
As you can see, Leake is a location guy, not a flamethrower. He is going to induce a lot of ground balls and throw a lot of strikes. In fact, Leake ranks 2nd in the MLB in total ground ball outs (188), behind only Houston Astros LHP Dallas Keuchel (224). Coincidentally, Leake is extremely similar to Hudson in his prime—neither is particularly tall (Leake: 5’10”, Hudson: 6’1″) and both rely on their ability to locate with movement, using both sides of the plate to get a hitter out.
The six-year veteran is a contact pitcher, averaging just 5.93 strikeouts per 9 innings (K/9). This stat ranks him 248th in the National League for K/9 and 11th among San Francisco Giants pitchers. He will pitch to contact as he averages a low 2.24 walks per 9 innings (BB/9).
“Leake is a ‘quick worker and goes right after hitters.’ They went on to say that he has a ‘laid back personality [who] won’t show much emotion on the mound.'”
The last component that Leake will bring to San Francisco is his surprising hitting ability. In his six years in the Majors, Leake has a career .219 batting average and has hit five homeruns, including one this year. Worst case scenario, the Giants will at the least have the best hitting pitchers in the league behind the bats of Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain, and now Leake.
As for the character of the Fallbrook High School graduate, Leake had one incident in April of 2011 when he was arrested for shoplifting, as he stole $60 worth of shirts at a downtown Cincinnati department store. Leake would plead guilty to a lesser charge and was quoted in a press conference by NBC Sports reporter Aaron Gleeman saying:
"On April 2, I went in to purchase six shirts and they did not fit–wrong size. I proceeded to go to Macy’s and exchange them on my own instead of talking to the clerk. I set the six shirts down and got the correct sizes myself, walked out and they stopped me. I realize how boneheaded of a move that was. It was very wrong and I sincerely apologize. It was a serious lapse in judgment. For that, I will be willing to do anything I have to do."
As odd and confusing as the whole situation was, according to FanSided’s Blog Red Machine Leake is a “quick worker and goes right after hitters.” They went on to say that he has a “laid back personality [and] won’t show much emotion on the mound.”
So, there you have it. The complete story and scouting report for the newest San Francisco Giant. Leake is expected to make his San Francisco Giants debut this Sunday against the Texas Rangers. With expectations high, Leake has a lot to prove, but he could very well be an X-factor in another World Series run.
For more detailed scouting reports: