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Cincinnati Reds: Why Mike Leake Is the Best Option for the Fifth Starting Spot

March 5, 2013; Tempe, AZ, USA; Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Mike Leake (44) throws against the Los Angeles Angels in the first inning during a spring training game at Tempe Diablo Stadium.  Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports
Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports
Tyler DumaFeatured ColumnistMarch 20, 2013

The Cincinnati Reds have a bit of a conundrum on their hands concerning the fifth and final spot in the team's starting rotation.

The Reds are moving forward with their plan to make Aroldis Chapman a starter this spring and while he has done an alright job, there are now doubts as to whether or not he can mentally handle being a starter.

According to CBSsports.com's Danny Knobler, Chapman would like to close.

When asked last Saturday which role he preferred, Chapman stated, "I would like to be a closer, but that's not in my hands."

Reds' manager Dusty Baker has also made it clear that he would prefer having Chapman remain the team's closer. While Baker's voice isn't the only important one in the matter, it certainly does carry some weight with GM Walt Jocketty.

As I stated earlier, Chapman has pitched ok this spring. His ERA and WHIP are certainly good, but his metrics are a far cry from what you would expect from a pitcher of his caliber.

Take a look at Chapman's stats with just under two weeks left before the season begins.

Aroldis Chapman G IP H ER K BB ERA WHIP K/9 K/BB BB/9
Spring Stats 3 8.0 5 2 4 4 2.25 1.13 4.5 1.0 4.5

The walk rate is a little high, but that will likely improve as Chapman gets more work.

The problem however, doesn't lie in Chapman's overall ability, but in the fact that he simply would rather be a closer.

Though Chapman would likely accept whatever role the team places him in, it goes without saying that he would perform better in a role that he was more comfortable with.

With that, and his relative lack of experience as a starter, Mike Leake presents the Reds with their best option at this juncture. 

Leake had a rough year in 2012 going 8-9 with a 4.58 ERA, a 1.35 WHIP and ratios of 10.1 H/9, 5.8 K/9, 2.1 BB/9 and 2.83 K/BB (Per Baseball-Referebce.com).

Outside of Leake's struggles though, the lineups the Reds went with when he pitched were less than stellar.

Leake pitched in multiple outings where he recorded a quality start and suffered the loss (three to be exact). Additionally, Leake had four wins lost by the bullpen (per Baseball-Reference.com).

Had those starts gone his way, then Leake would have been a 15-9 starter and fans would have looked right over his 4.58 ERA.

Leake hardly received a vote of confidence from the managerial staff in those games and starters included the likes of Wilson Valdez, Willie Harris and Devin Mesoraco. All three struggled mightily last season (check out Leake's game log here).

Leake has the potential to be a Jekyll and Hyde type pitcher. When he's good, he's really good but when he's off, he's really off.

Leake had four starts last season where he allowed six or more earned runs. However, he did pitch two complete games and made seven starts where he allowed one run or less (per ESPN.com).

All things considered though, the 25-year-old Leake appears to have turned the corner this spring and, according to ESPN's Buster Olney, has been impressing scouts all spring. 

Leake is still very young and is in the early stages of his development as a major league pitcher.

After being drafted in 2009 by the Reds, Leake skipped the minors entirely and is just now reaching the point where he would have been called up to the big league level.

Fans have been quick to jump off the Mike Leake bandwagon, but even with Chapman and prospects Daniel Corcino and Tony Cingrani waiting for their shot, Leake is still the team's best option to start the season.

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