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Reds vs. Pirates, 16 April 2010

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CINCINNATI - APRIL 11:  Mike Leake #44 of the Cincinnati Reds throws a pitch during the game against the Chicago Cubs on April 11, 2010 at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI - APRIL 11: Mike Leake #44 of the Cincinnati Reds throws a pitch during the game against the Chicago Cubs on April 11, 2010 at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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Mike Leake vs. Zach Duke, 7:05 PM.

I'm pretty curious about this one, and not because of the funny similarities in these two pitchers' names. Leake was the Reds' first-round pick last summer, and he's a good pitching prospect but not a premium one. The Reds let him skip the minor leagues entirely (although he did pitch a few games in the Arizona Fall League), inserting him directly into their rotation. He made his major league debut on Sunday and shut down the Cubs, allowing one run in 6 2/3 innings, but he walked seven batters.

Maybe the Reds end up looking like geniuses for doing this, but putting Leake in the rotation without a day's worth of minor league experience looks to me like the sort of cockamamie idea that can lead to weird cycles of promotion and demotion that can derail a guy's career. Andrew Miller was supposed to be one of the best talents, if not the best talent, in the 2006 draft, and now I look at how his career has gone and I just feel bad for him. He hasn't had a major injury, but he's had the misfortune of playing for two organizations (Detroit and Florida) that place little value in continuity. He's pitched in the majors every season since he was drafted, but he has obvious problems with control and mechanics that he's never ironed out, so he keeps going back to various minor league levels, where he steamrolls the competition. This is not the way to develop a pitcher, and I think it's pretty likely the Reds end up doing something like this with Leake while burning through a bunch of his service time in the process. Good for Leake for getting good results in his first start, but the seven walks suggest there are some things he could work on.

While I'm at it, I think it's funny that the Pirates have a player in Brad Lincoln who taken two picks before Miller out of college in 2006 and still hasn't pitched in the majors yet. The Lincoln saga isn't a success story either, but one of the few things I think Dave Littlefield did well was to promote prospects at an appropriate pace. Obviously, he didn't acquire many prospects to begin with, so there wasn't much in the way of temptation, but I'm glad that the list of stunts he pulled didn't include, for example, making Andrew McCutchen the starting centerfielder at the beginning of the 2007 season, or something like that.

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