Baltimore Orioles: Wade LeBlanc Isn’t Trying To Impress Anybody
By Nick Stevens
LHP Wade LeBlanc has a good shot at making the Baltimore Orioles starting rotation.
Wade LeBlanc doesn’t have to do much to crack the Baltimore Orioles starting rotation, something he knew when agreeing to sign a minor league deal with Orioles over offers from other major league clubs.
After a short and solid day at the office on Sunday afternoon against the Boston Red Sox, LeBlanc told reporters he was “not trying to impress anybody at this stage.” “I’m 35,” he said. “If they don’t know who I am as far as a pitcher, we got problems.” (via Joe Trezza of MLB.com)
LeBlanc is one name among a long list of pitchers in Orioles camp battling for a rotation spot, a competition that won’t make national headlines, but does feature a few interesting names and possible bounce-back candidates.
The 11-year veteran is now with his eighth organization since making his major league debut back in 2008 with the San Diego Padres. At 35, LeBlanc is trying to prove he still has something left in the tank and earn a rotation spot with the Orioles for the 2020 season. Having a veteran who can work a big chunk of innings will go a long way in helping this Orioles team navigate their way through what is expected to a long year in the Charm City.
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LeBlanc gave up one hit across his two scoreless innings on Sunday, striking out two and walking none. He showcased his upper-80s fastball and his impressive changeup, a pitch that has produced a lot of weak contact over the years and generated a 30% whiff rate last season with the Mariners.
Without much velocity behind his fastball, LeBlanc will need to continue to hit his spots with the pitch if he wants to find success this season, especially at Camden Yards. Last season, LeBlanc was worth -0.4 fWAR after going 6-7 with a 5.71 ERA in Seattle. It was the first season since his 2008 rookie campaign in which he was worth negative WAR, per Fangraphs.
Outside of his 1.6 fWAR season in 2018, LeBlanc has been right at or just slightly above league average every year in his career, which is exactly what the Orioles are looking for LeBlanc to be this season as a minor league free agent.
It’s very early in spring, but LeBlanc did what he was supposed to do on Sunday. Can he keep it up and earn a rotation spot? The veteran certainly seems to have an inside track to making a young and inexperienced Orioles roster come Opening Day.