Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Wade LeBlanc opens some eyes

Wade LeBlanc is one of the Padres top young, near ML ready pitching prospects. Everyone in the Padres system is very familiar with his arsenal, but it seems his 11k debut in Portland turned the heads of many across the country. Nice to see people finally catching up to what we already knew.......That is that this kid is good !!! Enjoy this read, and look forward to seeing this guy up in the near future, barring some trade, locking down the #5 role in our rotation. Matt Eddy of BA does a good fun write up on him discussing this very thing.

Posted Apr. 8, 2008 2:29 pm by Matt Eddy

A few things we know about Padres lefthander Wade LeBlanc:
• He won BA Freshman of the Year honors in 2004 while at Alabama

• The Padres made him a second-round pick in 2006

• He struck out 8.7 batters per nine innings between high Class A and Double-A last

So when the 23-year-old LeBlanc struck out 11 Sacramento batters over six innings—and threw 66 of 81 pitches for strikes—in his first-ever Triple-A start Monday night, it sure seemed like he was picking up where he left off last year. Plus, the performance elicited the quote of the day from River Cats manager Todd Steverson, as told to the Sacramento Bee:

"It was a little tough solving (LeBlanc’s) riddle. He seemed he had three or four different changeups he was throwing up there."

So can we add that to the things we know? Not so fast.

"Wade has two changeups," Portland pitching coach Glenn Abbott said. "One’s just a little harder than the other. Some will tell you it’s four different changeups, but it’s a variation on the same pitch.

"To throw it at different speeds, he just loosens up—it’s a feel pitch. You just have a feel for it."

LeBlanc put those changeups of varying velocity to good use, as aside from those strikeouts, he allowed only one run on four hits, while also walking one. It just so happens that that one run was the result of a solo homer by catcher Landon Powell, on an 0-2 fastball.

And it’s command of the fastball that LeBlanc is polishing with Portland—particularly the two-seamer away to righthanded batters. To accomplish this, Abbott said LeBlanc is simply throwing the pitch more in games. Seems simple enough.

"He doesn’t have a whole lot of confidence in (the two-seamer) yet," said Abbott, who also coached LeBlanc when the two were at Double-A San Antonio in 2007. "He’s had lots of success with a four-seam fastball and the changeup. Nobody can hit it. So sometimes, you don’t see the need to change. But it’s not about pitching where we’re at; it’s about pitching in big leagues.

LeBlanc’s sinker typically registers at 82 mph, while his four-seam fastball sits at 86-88. His curveball is very good at times, but like his heater, it’s used primarily to keep batters from sitting on his changeup.

"Wade is able to use his (four-seam) fastball in and out, which is key because he’ll have guys searching for it," Abbott said, "and they end up reaching for the changeup."

"A couple guys were looking for that changeup and he threw the fastball by then. That’s what pitching’s all about. At Triple-A, you have more veteran hitters who will sit on pitches. It’s a little more about the process than it is at lower levels."

Though LeBlanc is a product of a major college, Abbott still marvels at the progress shown by the young lefty. "He’s driven. He wants to pitch when it’s his turn. He wants to pitch in big leagues."

It may not be long until he gets that chance.

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