Player: Ben Leeper
Position: Right-Handed Pitcher
Height: 6’0 Weight: 195 Age: 24 Bats/Throws: R/R Current Level: AAA Iowa
MLB.com Rank: 27th in Cubs System
Fangraphs Rank: 18th in Cubs System
Acquired: Signed as an Undrafted Free Agent in 2020
Hometown: Southlake, Texas
College: Oklahoma State
Ben Leeper dealt with a ton of injuries early on while at Oklahoma State, including two Tommy John surgeries. He was healthy his senior year and took on the role of the Cowboys’ closer before Covid ended the season early. No one took a chance on him in what was a shortened 2020 draft (only five rounds), and so the Cubs were able to sign him for just $20,000 as an undrafted free agent.
When Leeper began his pro career at Double-A Tennessee (impressive in it of itself to start at Double-A) in 2021, he was sitting 95-99 mph with his fastball. After allowing just 2 earned runs in his first 14.1 innings (1.26 ERA) out of the Smokies bullpen, he was promoted to Triple-A Iowa in still his first season of pro ball. Leeper has remained in Iowa in 2022 and currently has a 3.26 ERA in 19.1 innings this year.
Leeper’s fastball and slider are both plus pitches that give him the ability to be in an MLB bullpen. His fastball sits 95-99 mph with carry. His slider is in the 87-90 mph range and could definitely be more consistent. Sometimes it’s really good and sometimes they’re below-average. The plus velocity on those sliders can still make those below-average sliders tough to hit.
One issue you always worry about with relievers is control and Leeper is no different. He came out of Oklahoma State walking around seven batters per nine innings. That’s way too high, but we’ve seen a drastic shift in his short time with the Cubs organization. He’s basically cut that walk rate in half in 2021 and 2022. We see that drop off on the plot below.
Leeper has been on a fast track to the major leagues given his pitch arsenal and future projection as a bullpen arm. He’s got a lot of people exciting about his future with the Cubs and I’d expect we could see him in Chicago this season.