Name: Josh Lueke
Position: Relief Pitcher
DOB: December 5, 1984
The Texas Rangers drafted right-handed pitcher Josh Lueke in the 16th round of the 2007 MLB Draft. A product of Northern Kentucky University – an NCAA Division II school – Lueke posted a 4.32 ERA with three complete games in 10 starts (14 games). He allowed 76 hits in 75 innings, walking 22 and striking out 47.
Lueke's professional numbers were even better last summer, as the hurler had a 3.34 ERA in 20 appearances with the Single-A Clinton LumberKings. He also held opposing batters to a paltry .225 average with the full-season club.
Though he had been a starter in college, the Rangers made Lueke a reliever shortly after signing him. Lueke believes the switch helped contribute to his improvement between the college and professional levels.
"The whole issue was being able to get ready a lot quicker," said Lueke in November. "Starters take about 30 minutes to get loose. Just throwing that one inning, I can just go out there and get three outs without having to worry about making sure all my pitches are working that day and how well I feel."
The new role, which Lueke seems to enjoy, is one he will likely stay in for the remainder of his career.
"I'm pretty much a back-end bullpen guy," he said. "That's what [the Rangers] have been telling me."
With a fastball that sits in the low-90s and reaches 95-96 MPH at times, Lueke certainly has the velocity to work as a late-inning reliever. The 23-year-old also has a slider and a changeup. He has recently spent time developing his changeup to give him a third pitch.
"All summer, me and [Clinton pitching coach] Danny Clark were trying to work on a changeup to get that third pitch down," replied Lueke. "I just couldn't get a feel for anything. [At instructs], he and Rick [Adair] just basically took a finger off my fastball and moved it over on my hand a little bit. Ever since then it has just been developing real well."
Lueke joined the Rangers' Fall Instructional League shortly after his 2007 season was over. The hurler was pleased with the way he was able to perform against some of baseball's top young prospects.
"I think I fared real well," said Lueke. "I just kept the tempo going real well and I located my pitches real well. I got some ground balls when I needed them and got some key flyouts. The outfielders and everything were always there. It was real nice."
The Highland Heights, Ky., native was impressive during his stint at Fall Instructional League, especially when it came to velocity.
"I guess my arm got a second wind or something," he said, "because during instructs I was throwing a lot harder than I was throwing all year. Some of the players were telling me I was 95-96 MPH."
Currently in the middle of his offseason throwing program, Lueke says he expects to take one step up the organizational ladder in 2008.
"When we had our personal meetings, we talked," said Lueke when asked if the Rangers have told him anything about next season. "I'm assuming that I'll be going to Bakersfield if everything works out well."
Repertoire: Fastball, Slider, Changeup.
Lueke's best pitch is a fastball, which consistently sat in the low-to-mid-90s during his professional debut last summer. However, the right-hander was sometimes working his fastball into the 95-96 MPH range during Fall Instructional League. Though he had been a starter in the past, Lueke was mostly a two-pitch pitcher. He worked to develop the third pitch – a changeup – at instructs. Pitching coaches Danny Clark and Rick Adair made an adjustment to his grip that helped Lueke find a comfort zone with the pitch.
Projection: With a 6-foot-5, 220-pound frame and good fastball, Lueke could develop into a late-inning reliever in the major leagues. The righty already has a good slider and the addition of a changeup figures to pay dividends at the higher levels. Lueke is likely to open the 2008 season in High-A Bakersfield and has a chance to move through the system relatively quickly.