Position: Right-handed Pitcher
From the time Lebron signed in 2006, it took him three years and over 100 innings to get an opportunity outside of rookie ball. He showed improvements while continuing to pitch in rookie ball but there were still questions surrounding him entering the 2010 season.
The Tigers sent Lebron to Low-A West Michigan to start the year but he struggled mightily in 13 games before being sent back to the GCL and then eventually to short-season Connecticut. Only in the rookie league did Lebron post good numbers that season with a 2.28 ERA there and an 8.44 and 6.85 ERA in Connecticut and West Michigan, respectively.
In 2011 the Tigers sent Lebron back to West Michigan for another trial. He pitched in 22 games out of the bullpen, totaling 34 1/3 innings. He posted the posted ERA of his career (1.83), allowed only 4.7 hits per nine innings, a career-best 5.0 walks per nine innings and 11.5 strikeouts per nine innings.
Everybody knows Lebron for his electric right arm. He has dialed his fastball up to 100 mph in short stints and will routinely sit 94-95 without much trouble.
His fastball comes in a little flat, lacking both movement and angle to the plate. He only stands 6-foot-1 and doesn't have a high enough arm angle to create the downward plane to the plate that scouts covet. All of this can leave his fastball more hittable than one would think.
By most accounts Lebron scrapped his change-up when working out of the bullpen in 2011 and relied only on his curveball. With so much focus given to his fastball in past years, Lebron's curveball lags significantly behind. The pitch will flash average once in a while but generally earns below-average grades. It lacks consistent tight spin and he often gets caught getting around it too much.
Lebron is every bit the thrower rather than a pitcher. He has enough effort in his delivery that he struggles to repeat it and his control demonstrates that. He will still fight the strike zone at times and his command is no better than bottom of the scale.
His lack of pitchability extends to his ability to field his position and holding runners. He is still below-average in both respects.
As a result of his inconsistencies, Lebron profiles in relief long term. His lack of control and a second pitch leave him well short of a high leverage profile and most scouts peg him as a seventh inning guy at best.
Performance Level Team W-L ERA G GS SV SO BB IP WHIP A
Lebron missed some time in 2011 with a sore shoulder. The injury didn't require anything beyond rest and strengthening but it bears watching as he is asked to pitch more regularly at higher levels.
Lebron showed enough improvement in limited innings with West Michigan last year to line himself up for a try at High-A in 2012. If he pitches well or if injuries strike at higher levels, there is nothing stopping him from getting an opportunity to pitch at Double-A this year.
The Tigers have been patient with him to date and with his raw arm strength there is no reason they won't continue to be. If he continues to pitch well in 2012 the Tigers will have to consider adding him to the 40-man roster following the season.
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