Brian Leach was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 25th round of the 2008 draft out of the University of Southern Mississippi. Leach got off to a strong start in State College after signing, with a 3.98 ERA in 54.1 innings between the rotation and the bullpen. Leach made 32 appearances in West Virginia in 2009, with 12 starts, putting up a 2.96 ERA in 109.1 innings. Leach was moved to the rotation full time in 2010, where he had a 3.85 ERA in 138 innings. Leach will pitch in the Arizona Fall League this off-season, and should move up to Altoona to start the 2011 season.
Recently John Dreker of Pirates Prospects caught up with Leach, and asked him some questions about his pitch selection, the Arizona Fall League, and his career results so far. Here is what Brian had to say.
John Dreker: Brian, could you start by giving some background info such as when you started pitching and what it was like to be drafted?
Brian Leach: All my life I dreamed of becoming a Major League baseball player. My dad was always my coach when growing up never really pitched much until my sophomore year of College. I attended Northwest Community College where I started learning about pitching but mostly just a thrower. I started lifting weights and getting in shape and getting my velocity up. I was offered a D1 scholarship for the University of Southern Mississippi where my success on the mound wasn’t a great sight because I was facing better hitters and never really knew how to pitch and struggled with command. When I found out that I got drafted it was the greatest feeling ever. My brother (who plays currently in the LA Dodgers Organization) told me about what he went through and what all I would be going through and I was just so excited to get the opportunity and never really knew it would grow this much!
JD: What other teams were watching you and did you have an idea the Pirates would draft you?
BL: After college games I would get letters from many different teams and was so excited when I would get them. I didn’t know the Pirates were looking at me because I had heard a lot from the White Sox and Marlins, but when I got drafted as a Pirate I can say I am proud and honored to be a Pittsburgh Pirate!
JD: What pitches/velocity do you throw currently and are you working on any new ones?
BL: When I was drafted I threw a fastball, curveball, and somewhat of a change up. I could run my fastball up to around 93-94 sitting 90. Now I throw a slider instead of a curveball because it is more consistent with the same delivery as my fastball and my change up has improve significantly. My first year of pro ball with the State College Spikes I topped 96 mph and this year I was a starter and would sit anywhere from 91-95. The more experience I got on the mound the more comfortable I started feeling.
JD: I noticed you pitched much better the second half. How do you feel your season went this year?
BL: I worked a lot on mechanics staying back and speeding up the delivery and Wally Whitehurst my pitching coach in Bradenton help me tremendously this year. We talked about slowing down the game and executing pitches not trying to be to fine with them and just got out pitch and have fun. I mostly had a drifting problem but it is slowly going away.
JD: You’ve now spent three seasons in pro ball, do you set goals before each season? Looking back from when you were drafted, are you where you expected to be just over two years later and have there been any big surprises?
BL: I do set goals during a season because I really like to challenge myself throughout my career. I am please to be where I am pitching wise. I still have some stuff that needs work and I just try to work hard every day so I can one day make it and stay in the Bigs.
JD: What are your thoughts on going to the AFL and when did they inform you of the assignment? You’re going there as a reliever I believe, is that correct?
BL: They had mentioned it to me during the season that there could be a chance I would be going to the AFL but it never really sank in until they called and told me I was coming about 3 days after the season was over. Then I was stoked! Yeah I am going to be a reliever there so during instructional league I have been working on my stretch delivery more and coming in during situations.
JD: Any final thoughts you’d like to share with the readers of the site?
BL: I believe you can do anything through Christ that gives you strength! This is the most amazing job ever, because I get paid to do what I love and that is play baseball!
Thank you to Brian Leach for the great interview and for all the information he shared!