WADE LeBLANC, LEFT HANDED PITCHER
|Born: August 7, 1984
Drafted: 2nd Round, 61st Overall, 2006 (Padres)
How Acquired: Trade (with Mariners for PTBNL or cash)
College: University of Alabama
Agent: CAA Sports
WTM’S PLAYER PROFILE
|LeBlanc is a soft-tossing lefty with a long track record of being a AAA depth starter who gets called up briefly and sent back down. His fastball sits at only 85-87 mph and he does not throw it as much as major league pitchers typically do, preferring to “pitch backwards” by using his secondary stuff to set up the fastball. LeBlanc’s best pitch is a change, which he throws about a quarter of the time. He also throws a curve. Probably due to the change, he’s had a significant reverse platoon split in the majors, getting hammered by left-handed hitters for a 309/359/530 line. He hasn’t been all that effective against right-handed hitters, but they’ve had a lesser 262/327/431 line against him. He’s a strong flyball pitcher and his HR rates have generally been on the high side, sometimes very high. The Pirates acquired him from Seattle in mid-September 2016.
The Padres sent LeBlanc to short-season ball for seven games, three of them starts, and his peripherals were better than his ERA. They then moved him up to low A and he pitched well over seven starts. Baseball America rated him San Diego’s 16th best prospect after the season.
LeBlanc had a big season, dominating in the heavy-hitting California League before moving up and pitching very well in AA. BA rated him the Padres’ fourth best prospect after the season.
LeBlanc had considerably more trouble in AAA. He didn’t allow a lot of runners and he continued striking out hitters, but he allowed 21 HRs, better than one every seven innings. He also struggled badly in a September callup. BA still rated him the Padres’ 12th best prospect after the season.
LeBlanc pitched better in AAA, although he continued to have a little trouble with HRs, allowing 15. He got a callup in June for two starts that went badly. San Diego called him up again at the end of August and he pitched very well over seven starts, posting a 2.57 ERA.
The Padres sent LeBlanc back to AAA to start the season, but after two starts they called him up. He stayed in their rotation until the end of August, then made just one relief appearance in September. He pitched just decently and again had gopher ball problems, allowing 24, one every six innings.
LeBlanc opened the season back in AAA, but made three separate trips to the majors. The last came at the end of July and he spent the rest of the season in the Padres’ rotation. He pitched much the same as the previous year, still fairly hittable but with fewer HRs (7). After the season, the Padres traded him to Miami.
The Marlins sent LeBlanc to AAA for the first half of the season, where his peripherals were better than his ERA. He spent the last half of the season with Miami, making nine starts and 16 relief appearances. He was much better as a reliever, with a 2.53 ERA and 1.08 WHIP, compared to 4.18 and 1.42 as a starter.
LeBlanc started the season in the Miami rotation and got pummeled, with a 6.11 ERA through seven starts. The Marlins moved him to the bullpen and he pitched much better, but the Marlins put him on waivers in June and Houston claimed him. He pitched three times in relief for the Astros and they outrighted him to AAA. He got hit moderately hard there, with a good K rate, pitching both in relief and starting. Houston called him up again for one appearance, which went poorly, and then outrighted him back to AAA for the rest of the season. He became a free agent in the fall and signed a minor league deal with the Angels.
LeBlanc opened the season in AAA, but was called up in late May. That started a long odyssey in which he was dfa’d six days later, claimed off waivers by the Yankees, pitched one game and then was dfa’d by the Yankees, elected free agency, signed a minor league deal with the Angels once more, was called up a month later, was outrighted a week later, was called up again five days later, and then finally non-tendered after the season. Through it all, LeBlanc didn’t pitch especially well through 22 AAA starts. He had good walk and K rates, but opponents hit .288 against him. With the Angels, he made three starts and six relief appearances, and pitched well.
LeBlanc went to Japan to pitch for Seibu. He made eight starts and had some control problems. After the season, he signed a minor league deal with Toronto.
Toronto sent LeBlanc to AAA, where he pitched as a starter. He put up possibly the best numbers he ever had at the level. In June, Seattle traded a PTBNL or cash for him and called him up. LeBlanc made eight starts and three relief appearances for the Mariners and pitched well for the most part, walking very few, posting a solid K rate and allowing a .261 average to go with just a .293 OBP. He had massive gopher ball problems, allowing 14, or one every three and a half innings. Seattle outrighted him to AAA in early September and traded him to the Pirates nine days later. The Pirates called LeBlanc up when they acquired him, the same day they put Gerrit Cole on the disabled list the same day. They had already called up a number of other pitchers, but Neftali Feliz and A.J. Schugel were both out at the time, so uncertainty about their availability may have contributed to the need for LeBlanc. He pitched well in a dozen innings.
LeBlanc was eligible for arbitration after the season, but the Pirates signed him to a contract for 2017, with a team option for 2018. He spent the season mostly as a long man, although the Pirates occasionally used him as a setup man due to the extreme problems they had with their bullpen. LeBlanc got off to a very good start, with a 2.41 ERA and 0.98 WHIP through June 3. At that point he reverted to his career norms and posted a 6.55 ERA and 1.40 WHIP the rest of the way. Gopher balls were especially a problem, as LeBlanc allowed eight, along with a .533 slugging average, over his last 34.1 IP. He continued to have a reverse platoon split, with a .658 opponents’ OPS against right-handed hitters and .833 against left-handed hitters. At the beginning of September, the Pirates put him on irrevocable waivers but, unsurprisingly, there were no takers. He pitched only five times in the final month and only once after September 13.
It would make no sense for the Pirates to pick up LeBlanc’s option or retain him on the roster (he’s not eligible for free agency, so if the Pirates decline the option he’ll just become eligible for arbitration). He’s an easily replaceable pitcher and the Pirates should be looking for more upside. Hopefully, the waiver move and the lack of playing time late in the year are indications that they won’t exercise the option. The team has, though, developed an odd and self-defeating fascination with replacement-level middle relievers in recent seasons. The idea seems to be that they need a lot of middle relievers because they have some young starters who may get removed from games early. Having a reliever pitch multiple innings isn’t helpful, though, if the reliever doesn’t pitch good innings.
UPDATE: The Pirates in fact declined LeBlanc’s option and outrighted him to AAA. He’s been outrighted previously, so he has the option of electing free agency.
2016: Major league minimum
2018: $1,250,000 (team option; $50,000 buyout)
|Signing Bonus: $590,000
MiLB Debut: 2006
MLB Debut: 9/3/2008
MiLB FA Eligible: N/A
MLB FA Eligible: 2016
Rule 5 Eligible: N/A
Added to 40-Man: 9/1/2008
Options Remaining: 0 (USED: 2009, 2011, 2012)
MLB Service Time: 4.131
|June 3, 2003: Drafted in the 36th round, 1058th overall, by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
June 6, 2006: Drafted in the 2nd round, 61st overall, by the San Diego Padres; signed on June 26.
September 1, 2008: Contract purchased by the San Diego Padres.
November 22, 2011: Traded by the San Diego Padres to the Miami Marlins for John Baker.
June 3, 2013: Designated for assignment by the Miami Marlins.
June 8, 2013: Claimed off waivers from the Miami Marlins by the Houston Astros.
June 24, 2013: Designated for assignment by the Houston Astros; outrighted to AAA on June 26.
August 19, 2013: Called up by the Houston Astros.
August 20, 2013: Designated for assignment by the Houston Astros; outrighted to AAA on August 22.
October 4, 2013: Became a free agent.
November 11, 2013: Signed by the Los Angeles Angels as a minor league free agent.
May 25, 2014: Called up by the Los Angeles Angels.
May 31, 2014: Designated for assignment by the Los Angeles Angels.
June 3, 2014: Claimed off waivers from the Los Angeles Angels by the New York Yankees.
June 11, 2014: Designated for assignment by the New York Yankees; elected free agency on June 15.
June 17, 2014: Signed by the Los Angeles Angels as a minor league free agent.
August 21, 2014: Called up by the Los Angeles Angels.
August 26, 2014: Designated for assignment by the Los Angeles Angels; outrighted to AAA on August 28.
September 2, 2014: Called up by the Los Angeles Angels.
December 1, 2014: Non-tendered by the Los Angeles Angels.
December 17, 2015: Signed by the Toronto Blue Jays as a minor league free agent.
June 22, 2016: Traded by the Toronto Blue Jays to the Seattle Mariners for a player to be named later or cash.
June 24, 2016: Called up by the Seattle Mariners.
August 24, 2016: Designated for assignment by the Seattle Mariners; outrighted to AAA on September 4.
September 13, 2016: Traded by the Seattle Mariners to the Pittsburgh Pirates for a player to be named later or cash.
September 13, 2016: Called up by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
November 3, 2017: Outrighted to AAA by the Pittsburgh Pirates.