On Tuesday the Miami Marlins traded catcher John Baker to the San Diego Padres for left-handed pitcher Wade LeBlanc. Casual baseball fans may have never heard of LeBlanc and wonder who this 6’3’’ lefty is. In 2008 Baseball America ranked the former second rounder as high as the fourth-best prospect in the Padres organization. Here’s what Baseball America said about the soft-tossing lefty back then:
LeBlanc earned BA’s Freshman of the Year honors in 2004, missed much of his sophomore season, then lead Alabama to super-regionals as a junior in 2006. In his first full pro season, LeBlanc led all Padres farmhands with 145 strikeouts while finishing second with 13 wins and third with a 2.95 ERA. LeBlanc is a classic college lefty with command who pitches above his raw stuff. His smooth, repeatable delivery allows him to throw three pitches for strikes, and the finishes on those pitches improved in 2007. While he generally works backwards, LeBlanc gained confidence in fastball and used it to better effect setting up his secondary pitches. His changeup is a true 80 pitch on the 20-80 scouting scale at times, and he delivers it with deceptive arm speed. As the season progressed, he improved his feel for locating his solid-average curveball down in the zone. LeBlanc’s fastball leaves him little margin for error. It sits 86-88 mph and tops out a 90, and it’s a bit too true. He’s working to develop a two-seamer he can throw to the outer half of the plate with life. Improved fastball command would make his offspeed offerings that much deadlier. LeBlanc sometimes rushes the delivery of his fastball and his body gets ahead of his arm, causing him to miss up and away to righthanders. His command, durability and competitiveness mark him as a future No 3 starter.
Three years later, LeBlanc has not established himself as a number three starter, but has had some success in Triple-A. (He went 9-1 with a 4.30 ERA in a hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League.) In 54 big league games, LeBlanc owns a mediocre 4.54 ERA and a 17-22 record. LeBlanc does have one option left, meaning that he could begin 2012 with New Orleans and provide pitching depth for a very thin Marlins system. As mentioned, his changeup is easily his best pitch and was the one of, if not, the best in the Padres’ system. If the Marlins go out and acquire two starters, that’ll almost guarantee LeBlanc a ticket to New Orleans. However, if there is a starting spot open, expect LeBlanc to battle Alex Sanabia, Brand Hand and Elih Villanueva for that final place in the Fish’s rotation.