Luis Lebron was a relatively anonymous Dominican import at this time last year. He had an inauspicious stateside debut, walking nearly a batter an inning and posting an 11.16 ERA in rookie-level Bluefield. Yet, the organization remained enamored with his arm strength and, in his defense, he did strike out 45 batters in 25 innings. After getting some personalized work in Instructional League, the Orioles felt comfortable skipping him ahead to the college-heavy Aberdeen, which speaks volumes about the progress Lebron made. The organization‘s faith was rewarded, as Luis Lebron was selected to play in the New-York Penn League‘s All-Star game.
DOB: 03/15/85 Height: 6-1 Weight: 172 B/T: R/R
Luis Lebron's age 21 season:
At this point, Lebron has largely been getting by with his phenomenal arm action. Despite being a relatively short right-hander with a slight frame, he can dial his fastball up to 97 MPH. His command of it improved dramatically but still has a ways to go. In tight spots, Lebron likes to blow his fastball by hitters up in the strike zone. This has helped him miss a good deal of bats, but he is also a pronounced flyball pitcher. Lebron's breaking pitch is a sometimes inconsistent slider that has the potential to be a second plus pitch. He throws it in the 81-85 MPH range and generates dramatic movement.
Lebron's changeup lags behind his other offerings but, unlike most lower-level relievers, it has the potential to be a solid offering. In fact, dues to his three-pitch arsenal, it wouldn‘t be far-fetched for the Orioles to try him as a starter. Lebron strongly prefers to relieve, however, and his stuff doesn‘t hold up well past two or three innings. That could change as he continues to fill out, but the Orioles don‘t seem inclined to mess with a good thing. Interestingly, Lebron actually likes to pepper lefties with his slider, so he misses fewer of their bats but induces more groundballs.
Luis Lebron still has to tighten up his command, but his stuff is ready for the upper minors. If he can do so, he‘s a fine candidate to make a Jim Hoey-like leap through the system. He will begin next season in a high-leverage role in Low-A Delmarva‘s bullpen, where his flyball tendencies will be masked by the stadium‘s pitcher-friendly nature. If and when he gets promoted to high-A Frederick, he might hit a hiccup if he is unable to keep the ball in the park. Lebron could be ready for a major league role as soon as late-2008 and the Orioles feel he could be a long-term fix at the back-end of their bullpen.
Michael Hollman is the Senior Writer for Inside The Warehouse and can be reached via email at Publisher@InsideTheWarehouse.com