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MLB: Spring Training-Los Angeles Dodgers at Kansas City Royals
The highest upside of the players acquired on Friday might be for the guy getting the least attention: Jordan Leasure.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

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Meet the New Guy: Jordan Leasure

The South Side’s electric new righthander has NASTY stuff

Of the pieces the White Sox got back in yesterday’s Lance Lynn/Joe Kelly trade, reliever Jordan Leasure has garnered the least attention so far. Despite that fact, he could have the highest upside of the two prospects Los Angeles dealt to the Sox for their pair of veteran righties.

Leasure was a relative late bloomer in college baseball. In his first three seasons with the Division II Tampa Spartans, he averaged 28 innings pitched per campaign with 35 punchouts per season. While those figures aren’t inherently bad — and Tommy John surgery in 2019 followed by the pandemic in 2020 limited his sample size — his 4.30 ERA during that stretch did little to impress scouts at the major league level.

The 2021 season turned that narrative completely on its head. In 38 1⁄3 innings of typically high-leverage work, Leasure punched 60 tickets, closed out six games, and pitched to a miniscule 0.94 ERA in Tampa. Two years removed from Tommy John surgery, he was now pitching the best baseball of his life. The Dodgers rewarded that tenacity when they selected him with their 14th round pick later that year.

With the Spartans, Leasure’s fastball was typically parked in the low 90s. After three campaigns of seasoning in L.A.’s minor league system, his four-seamer now sits in the high 90s and can touch triple-digits. The extra ticks on the radar gun have helped him out monumentally, as Leasure has pitched to a gaudy 13.7 K/9 and an ERA of 3.24 in his past two seasons across High-A and Double-A. He’s closed out 36 games in that span and earned 17 saves in the process, showing an aptitude for performing his best when the stakes are highest.

In addition to his high-90s heat, Leasure sports a wipeout slider that has above-average vertical and horizontal drop that’s been making Double-A batters look silly.

With the departures of Kendall Graveman, Joe Kelly, and Reynaldo López, the White Sox currently have little in the way of high-leverage relief pitchers with the big-league club. Young sinkerballer Gregory Santos has proven to be an electric back-end reliever with the Sox, and imagining a bullpen that features Santos and Leasure bridging the seventh and eighth innings to a Liam Hendriks closing performance is a plausible reality that should have even the most pessimistic of White Sox fans salivating.

Leasure will likely report to Double-A Birmingham. However, given the tremendous success he’s enjoyed at that level and the White Sox’s dearth of bullpen arms as a result of multiple pre-deadline trades, it’s almost certain the closer will soon see Charlotte and entirely possible that the standout will get his first taste of big-league action in 2023.

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