The New York Mets have selected Washington State pitcher J.D. Leckenby in the 14th round of the 2013 MLB Draft. The right-hander served as the Cougars' closer in 2013 after a stint in the rotation as the Friday night ace his sophomore year. He has been more successful out of the bullpen in his time with WSU, but his stuff indicates that he could get another shot as a starter.
Jeff Nusser wrote about that stuff, and how Leckenby struggled to turn it into starting success, last April. Nuss cited the right-hander's mechanics as an issue (there is video in the post):
As you can see, his plant foot lands much more to his right, causing him to almost have to throw against his body. With the downhill plane gone, he seems to be compensating by slinging the ball side arm -- the slot has dropped dramatically.
As Nuss points out, that side arm slot made it difficult for Leckenby to induce ground balls, a hallmark of his success as a freshman when he posted a 2.28 ERA out of the bullpen. WIth Leckenby's fastball sitting in the low 90s regularly, he is going to need that downward action to be successful as a professional.
That freshman year is likely what still has clubs like the Mets interested, because he struggled in 2013. Leckenby allowed a .381 average on balls in play this past season (via college splits), leading to a .322 average against overall. He did little in the way of strikeouts, despite serving as a closer, fanning less than six batters per nine innings.
The inflated BABIP suggests that Leckenby is still struggling with his mechanics. If that is true, that is actual a good sign for him going forward. A professional pitching coach worth his salary can help the young righty straighten things out and get him to start inducing ground balls again.
Leckenby could also come back to WSU for another year, work on his game, and try to improve his stock for the 2014 draft. There is a lot more money to be had in the higher rounds, and Leckenby could stand to gain quite a bit.
Of course, if he has struggled for the past two years with the same problems (leaving balls up leading to an elevated BABIP), then Leckenby may not be getting the help he needs in Pullman. Like most drafted college juniors, he now has a decision to make.
For now, he becomes the second Cougar drafted in 2013, and the fourth WSU player to be drafted by the Mets all-time (pitcher Dan Frisella in 1966, pitcher Mark Crandall in 1967, and shortstop Jason King in 1990).