On Friday, the Cincinnati Reds announced that rookie pitcher Mike Leake will be their fifth starter. Leake was the Reds first round pick in the 2009 draft but signed too late to play last season. His first professional start will be for a Major League team.
How rare is it for an American pitcher to skip minor league baseball and go straight to the Major Leagues? Try TWO pitchers in the past 30 have made the transition, zero of them in the 2000s. Darren Dreifort of the Los Angeles Dodgers was the last college pitcher to do it. Dreifort was the Dodgers first round pick in 2003. He appeared in 27 games for L.A. in 2004, going 0-5 with a 6.21 ERA.
The only other pitcher since 1980 to skip minor league baseball was Jim Abbott of the Angels. He went 12-12 with a 3.92 ERA with the Angels in 1989 following a standout college career at the University of Michigan. Abbott won 18 games for California 1991. He threw a no-hitter later in his career while pitching for the New York Yankees. In 10 Major League seasons, Abbott won 87 games.
The Major League draft was instituted in 1965. Not many pitchers have made a successful transition straight to MLB. Few have even tried. David Clyde, Eddie Bane, Pete Broberg, Steve Dunning, Mike Adamson, Tim Conroy and Mike Morgan were all career underachievers. Burt Hooton, who jumped straight to the Chicago Cubs in 1971, became an All-Star pitcher. However, he was sent back to Triple-A after just three starts. Dick Ruthven also had a successful big league career, winning 123 games and pitching in two All-Star games. However, like Hooton, Ruthven was shipped back to the minors for one year of seasoning.
It’s also important to note that every single one of the 11 pitchers who jumped straight to MLB out of college or high school eventually pitched in the minors.
DAVID CLYDE: CAUTIONARY TALE OF WHY YOU DON’T RUN A PITCHER STRAIGHT TO THE MAJORS