By The Baseball Beginnings Guy
April 23, 2009
Mike Leake knows he doesn’t fulfill every scout’s physical profile for what they want right-handed starting pitchers to look like. Listed at 6-0, he’s not the tallest pitcher.
His listed weight is 180-pounds, which makes him a comparatively slight figure on the mound.
What he can do is touch 92 mph with his fastball, though he’ll comfortably work around 89-90, relying on deception, movement and command to get his outs. He mixes in a curveball, a sinker and a change-up. His command of his two best pitches, his fastball and his curveball, will get him drafted in 2009.
Leake has won as a college pitcher since he first laced his spikes at Arizona State. He was drafted by the Oakland A’s in the 7th round of the 2006 draft out of Fallbrook High in pitching-rich San Diego, but elected to go to ASU. He helped the Sun Devils reach the midway mark of the season ranked No. 1 in the nation. In his first 55 2/3 innings of 2009, Leake was 7-1 with 62 strikeouts and 13 walks.
This June, he will be drafted, and it will likely be much higher than in the seventh round. A nice amateur career-path comparison for Leake might be former USC right-hander Seth Etherton, who was drafted in the 9th round in 1997, came back to USC, and was a first-round pick in 1998.
Leake draws comparisons to former USC right-handers such as Etherton and Ian Kennedy for his mixture of fastball command and his breaking ball. The 2008 Pac-10 Pitcher of the Year, Leake is 31-7 lifetime at Arizona State. Baseball Beginnings caught up with him after he defeated host USC recently.
BB: How would you describe your development from when you arrived at ASU until now?
Leake: I used to pitch with more emotions. I still do, but I try to keep things at a more even-keel. It helps me stay a little more focused. To me, that’s how I’ve really developed as a pitcher over the last few years. Maturity is a big part of it.
BB: Given your competitive makeup, do you think that it was advantageous to go to college rather than to sign out of high school?
Leake: There’s no question about it. At ASU, you learn a lot. Murph (ASU coach Pat Murphy) has taught me so much, especially on the mental side of pitching. He’s more of the stay humble type and learn to keep your emotions locked inside. He was a pitcher, so it helps.
BB: Have you learned to trust yourself more on the mound in college?
Leake: I think I used to pitch with a lot of effort. Now I try just to hit my spots but not worry too much about being too pin point with all my pitches. I want to minimize the amount of pitches I throw in a game. Ground balls are fine.
BB: Do you define yourself by command or stuff?
Leake: It’s command for me. I’ve always had the pitches, but I think overall command everything I have better.
BB: What would you say you have more confidence in now than you did when you first came to ASU?
Leake: My change-up. I learned how to throw it instead of aiming it.
BB: What things, in your mind, do you need to continue to develop as you go along?
Leake: I have to have consistency in every outing and not let one run turn into five runs.
Come back tomorrow to see scouting video on Mike Leake.
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