Cubs Roster Moves: Leathersich Joins Big Club, Heyward Activated, Candelario and Pena Optioned
Let’s go ahead and dispense with the more well-known names in this series of transactions quickly. Jason Heyward went 3-for-4 with a walk in two rehab games with South Bend and is back in the lineup for the Cubs Tuesday. His activation, not to mention the return of Ben Zobrist and health of Kris Bryant, meant Jeimer Candelario returning to AAA.
While Candy was able to smash his first big league homer the other day, he was only 2-for-12 with a 42.9 percent strikeout rate in this most recent call-up. That’s not enough for us to draw conclusions, but the young man is never going to get adequate playing time with this roster.
Felix Pena, who has been solid in his role as part of the revolving door at the back of the bullpen, was optioned to make room for a lefty strikeout machine who will be making his first appearance in Chicago. Actually, that’s not entirely true. Jack Leathersich’s third MLB game came at Wrigley as a member of the Mets on May 14, 2015. He walked Chris Coghlan and was removed for Erik Goeddel.
The Cubs’ acquisition of Leathersich back in November of 2015 didn’t get a lot of publicity, due in part to the fact that it coincided with Theo Epstein being seen having beers with then-free agent Jeff Samardzija. Oh, there’s also the matter of Leathersich having undergone Tommy John surgery in July of that year, which limited him to only 25 total innings. And then he only logged 23.1 last season between rookie ball, AA, and AAA.
He’s put up some absolutely eye-popping numbers in the minors, though, and that’s what makes him a really intriguing option for the Cubs’ pen. You ready for this? Despite walking 5.1 men per 9 innings, the southpaw with the cool surname boasts a 2.96 K/BB ratio. If you’re not great with math, I’ll help you out a little here: That’s 15 K/9. Fifteen. Strikeouts. Per. Nine. Innings.
Leathersich has notched 42 K’s in only 25.2 innings at Iowa this year (14.73 K/9), though he has also walked 18 men in that time (6.31 BB/9). If the Cubs can harness even a modicum of control from him, the swing-and-miss is sexy as hell. And did I mention that he’s a lefty?
In his last 14 IP, Leathersich has allowed just one run while striking out 26 (52% of the batters he faced) and walking 5.
— Sahadev Sharma (@sahadevsharma) July 4, 2017
It’s a little weird that he’s putting up these numbers with a fastball that sits 91-92 and only touches the mid-90’s on occasion. Standing only 5-feet-11, Leathersich certainly doesn’t look the part of the strikeout artist, either. But scouting reports have touted his deception and the fact that his fastball tends to explode and sneak up on hitters. Carlos Portocarrero detailed these facets of Leathersich’s game and also included some video in a piece for BP Wrigleyville last season.
Cubs fans will get a better look at the bearded lefty this week as he likely makes his debut in royal pinstripes over the homestand.