Can Dominic Leone "Go Nuclear" on the Hitter's Synapses? And, if so, how would we know?

Could he be the next Mo Rivera? Dare we ask?

 

All this [Parts 1, 2 and 3] has been leading up to what I had been meaning to write about Dominic Leone (Talk40 #25), in response to a comment from "part-time" (which is now more than a week old):

 

  • The one thing I remember most when Leone was drafted is Tim Chalberg's comment 'Dominic Leone, RHP, Clemson - Some scout must see a potential adjustment that could make Leone a better fit in pro ball than college. I don't see much in the numbers that excites me. Grade: F'. Prospect Insider now ranks him as the number 19 prospect in the Mariners as of mid-season. No one else even has him on the radar, as near as I can tell, but from what the numbers are saying, the small money spent on the kid as a bonus was well spent. Bang for the buck, it would appear the Mariners own the scout who suggested the kid a big thank you.

 

A "Grade F" draft pick!

And ... Doc invited me to not be so "understated."  So how's this:

 

***

So here's the story so far.  Leone was pretty much an ordinary college pitcher.  A starter. 

Late in his college career, he decided he needed a boost and became infatuated with Mariano Rivera's cutter.

He started teaching it to himself by watching videos on YouTube.  Yes, that's the story.  YouTube!

The same ACC scouts who brought us Kyle Seager, Brad Miller and Danny Hultzen apparently thought they saw something worth pursuing.

So he came to Everett last year as that "Grade F" draft pick, and pitched 33.0 innings.

He gave up 17 singles, 3 doubles, 0 triples, 0 homers.

BA-against .174.  SLG-against .204.  ISO-against .030.

He walked a bunch, but ... no one could hit the ball against him.  No one got "good wood" on the ball.  Period.

 

***

Now ... 2013.

Are we allowed to throw out April?  In this case, maybe, since Leone is ordinary if he doesn't have his "nuclear pitch," and maybe he didn't quite have it in April.

But looking at May onward:

BA-against .184. SLG-against .229.  ISO-against .044.

Same story.  No one can hit.  No one connect with the ball.  No one gets "good wood."

He's faced 343 pro batters and given up 14 extra-base hits.  And six of those were in April.

That's a 4.1 XBH%.  You know who's career rate is 4.4%?  Yep.  Mariano Rivera.  [Felix is at 6.1%.]

 

***

But a huge difference in 2013: the walk rate has been falling like a rock.

  • 2012 5.2 BB/9.
  • April 4.1 BB/9.
  • May 2.9 BB/9.
  • June 0.8 BB/9.
  • July 0.0 BB/9.

It seems like he's now developed the confidence to throw strikes and know he's not going to get hit.  And that brings his value up considerably.

 

***

So ... can we conclude that Leone has developed a "nuclear pitch"?

Well ... we know:

  • Before he started throwing it, hitters got very "conventional" results.  He was nothing special.
  • Now that he throws it, batters get very few hits, and virtually no extra-base hits.
  • Now that he throws it consistently for strikes, he is virtually unstoppable.

The evidence seems pretty strong that something verrrrrrry interesting is going on.

Does that mean that Leone is set for a Mo Rivera career?  No.  But he seems to have a better chance than most.  And that can't be a bad thing.

 

 

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moethedogSo Deej, Montero and Kivlehan are the hitting stars in the 1st spring game? Be afraid, LoMo, be afraid!45 min 25 sec ago
Gordon Grossyep. "Just" a fractured fibula is one thing. Damage to a joint or fractures in other leg/foot bones is different.4 hours 13 min ago
GrumpyInitially I assumed he got hit with the ball on a bad throw, but I saw a gif of the injury... it was a fall. My concern would be not so much the fibula but possible other injury to the ankle4 hours 20 min ago
Gordon GrossI'm hoping for 6-8 weeks, Grumpy. Still leaves him with a lot of season to learn and get better. If it's sooner, great!4 hours 27 min ago
GrumpyFibula fx are usually not a big deal (that's the little bone in the lower leg).5 hours 12 min ago
Tacoma RainSorry to hear about Ji-Man. I had high hopes for him. However, Choi's injury probably opens a spot up on the 40 man now though, as Choi will most likely be placed on the 60 day DL5 hours 34 min ago
Gordon GrossTyler Smith is getting coal in his stocking from me for that throw. So, so sad for Choi. I'm hoping it's the sort of fracture that can be healed in a couple months, but lower leg fractures are tricky. I'm really hoping Choi is more Rendon than Snelling - dude has to stay on the field to take advantage of all that talent. Poor kid. Heal fast and come back strong.6 hours 17 min ago
MtGrizzly@StoneLarry: Ji-Man Choi fractured his right fibula in a play at first in the eighth.7 hours 46 min ago
Lonnie of MCToo bad about Choi.7 hours 52 min ago
Gordon GrossYeah, I was wondering if Lara found any dynamism in his swing - he did not. So he'll need to have a good eye and make really solid contact on what he swings at. Not sure that he can do that against more advanced breaking balls, but we'll get to find out.9 hours 12 sec ago
MtGrizzlyLara is burnt toast with that swing.9 hours 7 min ago
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Gordon GrossNext group of guys: Choi gets hit by a pitch, Lara has a powerful but slow swing, long fly ball. Kivlehan had a very professional AB and hit a single the other way behind the runner. I really can't help but love that kid.9 hours 28 min ago
okdanLara, Choi, and Kivlehan in the game now...9 hours 32 min ago
Gordon GrossJones gets a hit off a diving glove, but tweaks his ankle a little and gets replaced by a PR.9 hours 48 min ago
Gordon GrossMarte's still holding his hands at face level, with the bat up like an Olympic torch, and swinging down at the ball. I really want to be more sold on that kid - guess I'm waiting for the adjustments that will help him be more than a singles hitter who never walks. Hard to be Ichiro and succeed that way.10 hours 59 sec ago
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Gordon GrossMontero has a seriously different body. Splits to snag a ball at first? Yikes. Let's hope he has seriously different plate results too.10 hours 24 min ago