Coming to IU as an Indiana All State selection, solid two-way player, and draftee of the Cleveland Indians, Kyle Leiendecker was a huge pickup for Tracy Smith and the Hoosiers. In his freshman year, he started out strong picking up a win against always dangerous LSU. He went on that year to finish 3-0 in a season ended short by injury. After a short freshman year, he left Hoosier fans wanting more. Many, including myself, thought he would step into a weekend starter spot last year. After having difficulty finding the plate in his limited appearances, Leiendecker had a disappointing sophomore season.
After going to California this summer and finishing with a .356 BA and .485 OB%, he had many of the Hoosier faithful behind him again. In the fan picks, he was voted to RF by a considerable margin. Despite his success at the plate, Indiana fans remain intrigued by his potential on the mound. With our lack of returning experience, Leiendecker remains a wildcard. There is no denying that he has one of the strongest arms on the team, but many question if he can live up to his potential. Over his first two years, his stats are as follows:
FR: 7.76 ERA, 3-0, 12 APP, 5 GS, 26.2 IP, 34 H, 23 R, 23 ER, 18 BB, 19 K, .330 B/AVG
SO: 18.00 ERA, 0-0, 5 APP, 1 GS, 4.0 IP, 9 H, 9 R, 8 ER, 9 BB, 3 K, .474 B/AVG
As fans, I think we all are holding out hope that Leiendecker can return to form to pick up some valuable innings for this Hoosier team that lost 3 pitchers to the MLB draft. The team is clearly in dire need of arms to eat up quality innings this spring, but will Coach Smith provide Leiendecker with an opportunity to step in and help fill that pitching void, and will Leiendecker take advantage of the opportunities he does get? What is your take? Do you feel he still has something left to offer on the mound, or should he concentrate on contributing in the outfield and at the plate?
My personal inclination is for Coach Smith to give him a shot, and I think he certaintly will. He possesses the tools and has some experience, and I think there is still some potential there. The Hoosiers rotation would certainly be bolstered by the addition of another quality arm, so to me, giving Leiendecker another opportunity on the mound early in the season makes perfect sense to me. The worst case scenario would be that he struggles as he has in the past and returns to competing for playing time in the outfield. On the flip side, he could take advantage of the opportunity and finally live up to the expectations set for him early in his career.
I know this has been a hot topic of debate among some readers of late, but I am still interested to hear everyone's thoughts on the matter. Go Hoosiers!