By R.J. Anderson //
Cory Luebke started this season on the bottom side of most top 10 prospect lists centered around the San Diego Padres. The former first round pick from Ohio State University will never awe onlookers. He throws lefty and – insert the jokes here – his velocity ranges from 87-91 miles per hour despite throwing from a 6’4″ frame aged 25 years. Two starts into his Major League career and Luebke is raising his stock along with eyebrows. In 11 innings, he’s struck out 10 while walking three. His ERA is a sparkling 3.27 and more than 10% of his pitches have resulted in whiffs. Optimism is running wild for the former Buckeye, but will it continue?
In order to predict success for new major leaguers, analysts will start at one of two places: minor league stats or scouting reports. Let’s start at the latter. Most call Luebke a back of the rotation starter. A fancy way of saying he’s a pitchability (think of Greg Maddux/Tom Glavine as the kings of the throne) type but lacks something — something usually meaning a great fastball or put-away pitch. If Luebke possessed dime velocity and penny command he’d probably have the tag, “Frontline potential”.
The stats are more kind, but support the backend suggestion. Luebke’s strikeout rates reek of modesty since reaching the upper minors (his strikeout rates straddled the line between six and seven per nine innings pitched throughout) His walks per nine innings rates were fine — sitting below three — albeit a necessity with the rest of his skill set, and his ability to get groundballs is admirable. Most people’s problem with Luebke will be multi-layered. First, can he sustain success with his arsenal against the best hitters in the world; and next, how will he get right-handed batters out? Lastly, how does four-eyed vision really work?
The early signs are positive but unfulfilling in their infancy. Luebke stands to benefit from an elite defense playing within a pitchers’ paradise. San Diego is the place to be; a place where someone with Luebke’s stuff can become more than a backend starter or an afterthought thanks to the environment. The phrase product of the environment can reign true and may. That’s why Luebke is interesting for the 2010 season, but not a must keep. Not yet at least.