John Harper of the NY Daily News writes that lefty reliever Jack Leathersich‘s live stuff and deceptive delivery could make him a late-inning star, if he solves his control issues.
Harper compares Leathersich’s control to ‘Wild Thing” Mitch Williams, and calls him the Mets’ most intriguing pitching prospect.
In his three seasons moving through the Mets organization, Leathersich has 241 strikeouts in 143 innings of relief and Harper shares that the lefty’s deceptive delivery makes his 94-mph heater look more like 100 to hitters.
“Hitters tell me he throws an invisi-ball,” Zack Wheeler joked with Harper. “For some reason, they just don’t see it very well.”
Leathersich, who is 5-foot-11, isn’t a big presence on the mound like Noah Syndergaard, but his ability to strikeout a ton of batters, helps his case. In 2013, Leathersich began the season with Binghamton (AA) and recorded 16.9 strikeouts per nine innings with a 1.53 ERA in 24 games. However, after he was promoted to Las Vegas (AAA), his ERA ballooned to 7.76, but he still managed to record 14.6 strikeouts per nine innings. He also walked nearly double the batters with Vegas in about the same 29 innings of work.
“He’s got a big-league arm,” Triple-A manager Wally Backman shared on Sunday. “If he gets past the command issues, he could be special.”
Making the jump from Double-A to Triple-A he learned quickly how losing command of his pitches could change a game, “Even though I was still getting swings and misses,” Leathersich tells Harper, “I was also losing guys (to walks) or getting behind. And when you get behind on guys at that level, they make you pay.”
“That stuff had never really affected me before, but at that level I realized I needed to make a change, so all offseason I worked on getting the ball down. I’ve made a couple of tweaks in my delivery to keep my front shoulder from flying open, and it should help me throw more strikes.”
On Sunday at Mets camp, I watched as Leathersich threw to live batters and did struggle with his command, and not sure if you can chalk that up to just nerves or something he still hasn’t been able to shake.
If Leathersich is going to enjoy any success at the major league level, he is going to have to get a handle on his command issues. With highly regarded pitching coach Frank Viola there to help, he may be able to get those issues resolved and earn himself a spot in the Mets bullpen at some point this season.