A pitcher who needs a bounce-back year for the St. Louis Cardinals has been pitching at AAA after being sent down for lack of performance. How’s he doing?
The St. Louis Cardinals bullpen was a question mark coming into the year and was a bit of a black eye for the team during the first month or so of the season.
Part of this lack of performance at the time was because of inconsistent personnel including having Tyler Webb, Ryan Helsley, Giovanny Gallegos, Alex Reyes, Luke Gregerson, and Carlos Martinez moved up and down or both from AAA Memphis, but one player stuck around for a little bit before being optioned out.
Dominic Leone was that player.
Acquired last year in the trade of Randall Grichuk, Leone was coming off a year where he was fantastic for the Blue Jays in relief. In 2018, he barely pitched due to a nerve issue in his elbow but he came into 2019 seemingly healthy.
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I have written before that Leone was a great bounce-back candidate if he was healthy, but unfortunately, 2019 has not been very kind to Leone.
Starting the year in the bullpen, Leone threw 21.1 innings and struck out a huge 11.4 batters per nine innings, but unfortunately paired that with an 8.02 ERA.
The team stuck with Leone longer than I expected them to but eventually, on May 17th they were forced to pull the plug on the 27-year-old reliever and send him down.
From there the numbers haven’t honestly been much better.
In 17.1 innings at AAA, Leone has a 4.67 ERA. This is obviously better than his major league ERA but looking a little deeper, his K/9 rate has fallen to just 7.8 batters per nine innings and his walk rate is at an inflated 6.2 batters per nine.
In my opinion, I would guess that he is not fully healthy from the injury that kept him out the majority of last year. Being a nerve issue in his elbow, he didn’t have a great feel for his pitches as his hand was more or less numb. Understandable.
This has been an ugly chapter for the promising Leone and hopefully, he bounces back as the Cardinals have him under contract until 2022. Under two years removed from his 2.56 ERA season with the Blue Jays, Leone will get another chance at the big leagues but he either needs to refine his stuff or get healthy to be able to get anywhere near that 2017 level.