Cincinnati Reds Debate for Tony Cingrani or Mike Leake

Illya Harrell@illya_1971Analyst IIMay 3, 2013

CINCINNATI, OH - APRIL 17:  Mike Leake #44 of the Cincinnati Reds triples to drive in a run in the second inning of the game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Great American Ball Park on April 17, 2013 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Assuming Johnny Cueto's injury is no worse than the Reds' brass claims, what will the Reds do with Tony Cingrani?

That's a no-brainer—keep him in the rotation. Outside of Mat Latos, he's been pitching like the ace of the staff.

But, where does that leave Mike Leake?

The assumption that Cueto's injury will keep him out no longer than two weeks is a big one. Given Reds general manager Walt Jocketty's tight-lipped propensity of full disclosure of injuries, trades or anything related to the future of the club, Cueto's career may be over.

While that's not likely, anything is possible with Jocketty.

And, yes, while secrecy is frustrating for Reds fans, it is the right way to play the GM role. Any fan of any team wants to fix, operate and control—play arm-chair manager.

OK, let's get back to the debate using the scenario that Cueto will be back soon, with Cingrani remaining in the rotation and leaving Leake the odd man out.

The 2010 edition of the Baseball America Prospect Handbook quotes Arizona State's coach Pat Murphy saying, "Leake could have been the team's best defensive third baseman or shortstop."

Now, whether that would translate over to the big leagues is a legitimate question.

One thing is for certain, Leake can flat-out rake in the batter's box. His four-year career numbers have him hitting at a .280 clip, with an on-base percentage of .311 and a .671 OPS.



Now let's look at the Reds' everyday shortstop, Zack Cozart. He is a career .243 hitter with an on-base percentage of .280 (Leake's batting average), with a .676 OPS.

To play in Great American Smallpark, a team absolutely needs a rock solid defense. Jocketty as well as manager Dusty Baker have done an excellent job piecing together an incredible team in the field.

While there is little doubt Leake would be a far inferior shortstop, is it worth a look?

Cozart has been dismal in the two hole. He has struck out once every 5.3 at-bats over his career. So far this season, he's shown improvement in striking out only once per 7.5 at-bats. However, as a No. 2 hitter, that's far from something you'd have mom post on the fridge.

Placing Leake in the field also could cut the starter's pitch count.

Check this, he could move to the mound for one or two dismal hitters per game, chopping maybe 10 pitches off the starter's count. Of course, Dusty would need to find a place to hide the starting pitcher on the field...likely bringing in an outfielder to play short and putting the starting pitcher in left or right field.

Again, is it worth a gamble?

Would Baker and Jocketty sign off on the idea?

Not in a million years. But as a fix, operate, and controlling arm-chair manager of the Reds, it is something to think about.