Now we arrive on the first of two Mariners prospects on this list who are actually in the majors right now, and this one has already made a couple of positive contributions to the team:
13. Josh Lueke
Position: RHP | Hits: R Throws: R
DOB: 12/5/1984 | HT: 6’5″ WT: 235 LB
Notes: Lueke has a checkered legal past, but there’s no doubting that he is a legitimate major-league reliever. Acquired in the Cliff Lee trade, Lueke has good velocity on his fastball, good command (especially for a reliever), and two good breaking pitches in his arsenal.
The fastball, which comes in to batters in the mid 90’s and can touch as high as 97, has a little bit of weight to it. Not a lot, but just enough to make getting solid contact more difficult for hitters. It’s commanded well, and when Lueke is on, he can keep it lower in the zone than most relievers with that velocity can.
To keep hitters off balance, Lueke also brings a splitter and slider to the mound. The splitter, usually registering at 83-85, has a large, late drop to it that’s tough to catch up to for both lefties and righties. The slider, which comes in a few ticks faster, also has a large break not dis-similar from the splitter, but gets more gloveside tilt to it. Making things tougher on batters is that Lueke can sometimes get both pitches breaking at about the same visual point, making sitting on one nearly impossible.
In addition to generating a prodigious amount of strikeouts (career 11.4 K/9 in the minors), Lueke also generates a lot of weak contact off his pitches, helping lead to strong groundball rates, and also often higher-than-average pop-up rates. Those are very, very good things to see in a reliever, as the fewer balls that reach the outfield, the fewer chances an opposing team has to have a big inning.
Lueke also has an unflappable yet aggressive demeanor on the mound, something desired in late-inning relievers. It wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if he sees significant setup time in his career, and even chances at becoming a closer.
2011 Outlook: Should remain in majors for majority of season barring extended poor performance.
Major League ETA: Now