Boise Hawks, Northwest League, Short Season (13 G, 6-2, 3.73 ERA, 62.2 IP, 18 BB, 31 K, 1.37 WHIP)
Prior to Cubs
Leal signed for $75,000 as a 16-year-old with Diamondbacks on Sept. 14, 2011, and made his pro debut in the Dominican Summer League in 2012. He posted gaudy numbers in the DSL, going 6-2 with a 2.44 ERA in 70 innings. He fanned 70 and walked 11, with a 0.99 WHIP. The scouting reports on Leal before the trade raved about his curveball, a high-80s fastball with late movement, and a developing change-up.
Leal came stateside and after spring camp, continued his development at extended spring training, as part of the rotation for Mesa in the Arizona Rookie League. Leal proved he belonged, appearing in 13 games, allowing 50 hits in 48.2 innings but fanned 52 with only 8 walks. Leal went five innings five times and fanned a season-high eight in an Aug. 2 win against the Giants. He finished his first season in the states with a line of 3-2, 2.77 ERA, 48.2 IP, 50 H, 8 BB, 52 K, 1.19 WHIP, .262 BAA.
Unable to crack the Kane County rotation out of spring training, Leal remained in Mesa and in June was part of the Boise rotation and ready for Northwest League action. He had a rough start after his NWL debut, surrendering 15 runs on 15 hits in 5.2 innings over his next two starts. The right-hander finished the season strong, making 13 starts, including the final six when he went at least five innings in each outing and lowered his ERA from 5.40 to 3.73. Compared to his number in the Arizona Rookie League in ’13, his K rate was cut in half to 4.45 K/9 and his walks went up from 1.48 to 2.59 per nine innings. However, not really a good comparison, especially since Leal pitches to contact and is still in the process of developing an out pitch. He does need to cut back on the walks, as command will be his most effective resource and will need to pitch ahead and minimize pitch count. Leal finished the year at 6-2, throwing 62.2 innings in 13 starts. His WHIP was 1.37 with 31 K and 18 BB, after walking 19 in his first 128 innings of pro ball. He was ranked 14th best prospect in N’West League by Baseball America
Leal will be 20 by opening day and should begin in South Bend as one of the team’s starters. His fastball sits in the low 90s, an increase since joining the Cubs, and also throws a curve and change-up. Like many of the young arms in the Cubs system, Leal commands the strike zone with three pitches and isn’t afraid to pitch to contact. There’s plenty of upside to Leal’s game and at 6-foot-3, he still has room to grow into his frame.