Despite a starter’s build and a sinking fastball that will hit 93, the Mets’ 14th-round draft pick, J.D. Leckenby, probably lacks a ceiling any higher than that of a middle reliever. At 6 feet, 4 inches and 208 pounds, Leckenby looks strong and durable, and some might even dream that he can add a tick onto his fastball. However, Leckenby’s mechanics and stuff suggest that he’ll never be anything more than a bullpen part.
Leckenby’s fastball will hit 93 but more commonly sits 89-91 when pitching in relief--Washington State did use Leckenby as a starter in 2012, an experiment that was more or less a failure--but he throws it sidearm, making it very difficult for righties to pick up but lefties should feast on it. It does have outstanding sink to it, and he should be a groundball machine. Unlike a lot of sidearm pitchers, however, he doesn’t really show a good slider or slurve, limiting his effectiveness against righties, whom he should dominate. Leckenby’s numbers at Washington State were very pedestrian, marked by higher-than-you’d-like walk rates and terrible strikeout rates. He was a little more successful as a freshman when his arm slot was higher, but I’d rather he keep the low arm slot and develop a repertoire that will work with it, as it will help his chances at reaching the majors. Luckily, he does show an excellent changeup, with good arm speed, sink, and fade. Still, he’ll need a better breaking ball if he wants to fool hitters at any level.
Mechanically, like a lot of sidearm pitchers, Leckenby throws across his body, which adds to the deception but also robs him of velocity and command; it’s a tradeoff I’d live with as is, because he needs the deception. He also pronates a little late, but he’s otherwise clean.
I haven’t heard any word about whether Leckenby will sign or return for a senior year, but I suspect he might return to Washington State. He won’t get a big offer in the 14th round, and a good senior year could push him up into the draft’s top seven rounds. And considering his ceiling is that of a groundball-inducing middle reliever, I’m okay with that.