September 3, 2010
Luebke Debuts Tonight
The Padres have had mostly good health this season in the rotation, only losing out on Chris Young for an extended period of time. With many young starters on the roster though, they do want to give the group some extra rest when possible. Because of this, Cory Luebke will make his major league debut tonight after being part of the group called up when rosters expanded earlier this week. Luebke was somewhat unheralded coming into the season, as he ranked as the #12 prospect in the organization heading into the year and profiled as a back-end starter. He's succeeded at the higher levels of the minors though, and may have pitched his way into a 2011 job because of it--tonight is something of a test and a reward for a season well done.
The Padres first pick in the 2007 draft (a supplemental pick, #63 overall) started the year at Double-A, where he finished the 2009 campaign. He whiffed 7.0 per nine innings pitched once again, but his walk rate was markedly better, dropping from an uncharacteristically high 3.3 down to 1.9, which is more in his range. Following a promotion to Triple-A Portland, the left kept his punch outs up near his Double-A rates, and his walk rate climbed but only to 2.7 per nine, still well below the league average.
Luebke does not have dominating stuff--he as above-average velocity for a southpaw and two solid secondary offerings in his slider (his strikeout pitch) and his changeup, but what he lacks in dominance he makes up for in pinpoint control and excellent command. Luebke puts the ball where he wants to, with any of his pitches, during any count, and it helps him put up better numbers than you would think given the quality of his stuff. He has also been good about keeping the ball in the park throughout his minor league career, and though he gave up 0.9 homers per nine at Portland, it was (1) in a 57 2/3 inning sample and (2) he'll be pitching in Petco if he sticks. He is a flyball pitcher, even if he doesn't give up many homers (he has a 0.9 G/F ratio across both levels this year) so that figure might stick, but it's still right around the major league average.
Excuse the small samples here, but Luebke was superb against left-handers at Portland: an ERA of 1.80, 18 strikeouts and just three walks in 20 innings, and a 1.6 G/F ratio. Right-handers were more difficult to handle (3.58, 26 K in 37 2/3 IP, 14 BB and a 0.7 G/F). Those numbers are still solid, but he's potentially dominant against same-handed batters in the majors.
Prior to the season, PECOTA thought Luebke would put up a 4.55 ERA with 5.9 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9. He should walk fewer batters than that even out of the gate, and the fact that his strikeout rates have survived his promotions through the high minors is a good sign as well. He may not have much of a 2010 impact, as he's a spot starter from here on out if he picks up work past tonight, but he may be worth keeping an eye on in 2011 due to his ability to control the strike zone as well as his home park and the defense behind him.