06/09/09 11:06 PM ET
Arizona State righty is Reds' top pick
Leake heading to Cincinnati drafted No. 8 overall
By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com
Leake was the eighth overall selection by the Reds in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft out of Arizona State University. The school lists him as six feet tall and 180 pounds. The right-hander said that was a little generous."You want the honest truth or the sugar coating?" Leake said. "I'm about five-ten and a half." No matter his height, the numbers that Leake posted this season for ASU were quite lofty. A 21-year-old junior starting pitcher who also played the outfield, Leake is 16-1 with a 1.36 ERA in 17 games, including 16 starts, for the Sun Devils. In 132 2/3 innings, he had 21 walks and 150 strikeouts. His 40 career wins in three seasons are tied for the most in school history. "Those numbers to aluminum bats are pretty scary," Reds senior director of scouting Chris Buckley said. "We're thrilled to have him." Arizona State is currently participating in the College World Series. Leake hasn't learned when he will pitch next. Leake is considered a ground-ball pitcher who allowed just two homers in 2009, which should be to his benefit at hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park. He uses a fastball, curveball, slider and changeup. According to Buckley, Leake's fastball runs 88-93 mph and can touch 94 mph. "It's his command and how polished he is," Buckley said of what the Reds liked about Leake. "He throws four pitches for strikes. He can throw them at any time. He's an outstanding fielder. He has an outstanding pickoff move. He has all the intangibles that good pitchers have." "When I'm getting ground balls, I know I'm doing well," said Leake, a native of Fallbrook, Calif. "That's all I can really do -- work down in the zone and try to get ground balls to the infield. I like to work in and break bats. I'm not saying it's going to be easy, but it will be fun to throw some wood in the fire, hopefully." Leake, originally a 2006 seventh-round pick of the A's who chose to play college ball instead, is one of five finalists for the Golden Spikes Award, given annually to the nation's premier amateur baseball player. He is the first pitcher the Reds have taken with their first-round pick since Homer Bailey in 2004. Because Arizona State is still competing, the Reds will not be able to open contract negotiations with Leake until his season is finished. There is an Aug. 17 deadline for clubs to sign drafted players, and anyone not signed can be selected in the 2010 Draft. Leake will be represented by agent Danny Horwits, who also handles Reds relievers David Weathers and Arthur Rhodes and Cincinnati's second pick, pitcher Brad Boxberger from USC. Leake wasn't looking to drag out talks and appeared eager to sign. "I will be ready to do it once our season is over," Leake said. "The sooner we can get it done, the better. We can build a better relationship that way instead of going back and forth at each other with different negotiations." Last year, with the seventh overall pick, the Reds took first baseman Yonder Alonso from the University of Miami. Alonso, signed to a five-year, $4.55 million Major League contract minutes before the deadline expired, is currently with Double-A Carolina after starting the year at Class A Sarasota. As for where Leake might start in the Reds' system, Buckley was non-committal. The pitcher's innings count indicates that there was no rush to move him up quickly this year. "This is a guy that's 16-1, so he's pitched a fair amount of baseball this year," Buckley said. "You don't want to rush him or put him in a situation where he could get hurt." "I will be able to pitch," Leake said. "I think I'm in pretty good shape. I don't think I'm worn down too much. I think I can still do what they want me to do for this summer." Nine of the opening 12 first-round picks were pitchers and with the top end of the Draft considered pitching rich, the Reds were expected to take an arm. Buckley wasn't surprised that Leake was still around when the No. 8 pick was up. "If he were 6-foot-2, he would have for sure gone before us," Buckley said. "[Red Sox second baseman Dustin] Pedroia is 5-foot-8. Sometimes they come in smaller packages." Fittingly, Leake said that the pitcher he most identified with and emulated was future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux, who is also listed as six feet tall. Giants ace Tim Lincecum stands at 5-foot-11 and is the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner. "It's always been a thing that's haunted me," Leake said of his height. "I don't let it get to me that much. I know all you have to do is show what you're capable of, and it will pay off in the end." Other Reds picks from Day 1: Compensation round, 43rd overall, RHP Brad Boxberger: A starting pitching prospect, Boxberger was 11-12 with a 3.81 ERA in 46 games (37 starts) over three seasons at Southern California. This season in 14 starts, he was 6-3 with a 3.16 ERA, 50 walks and 99 strikeouts. Scouting reports track Boxberger's fastball at 91-93 mph and topping out at 94 mph. He is also listed at six feet tall. Round 2, 57th overall, SS Billy Hamilton: Taken out of Taylorsville High School in Mississippi, Hamilton has an offer to play football for Mississippi State. According to the MLB.com Draft Tracker report, Hamilton's hitting approach "is a bit crude," but his bat speed, strength and running speed were praised. Round 3, 88th overall, LHP Donnie Joseph: A lefty reliever from the University of Houston, Joseph was 3-1 with a 2.16 ERA in 50 innings over 31 appearances. He had 11 saves.
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.