No. 5 Starter Watch: Reds choose Leake

Well, it's (almost) official ... According to Mark Wood, the Reds have finally chosen their No. 5 starter:

    The fifth starter has been determined. It's Mike Leake, although the Reds have not announced anything.

    Travis Wood learned first and returned to the clubhouse and started packing his stuff. About five minutes later, Leake walked back from his meeting trying to contain his smile. He and Wood bumped fists.

    Leake confirmed he was given the good news.

    "It's kind of surreal right now," Leake said. "It has to soak in a little."

    Leake, the eighth overall pick last summer, will be the first drafted pitcher to skip the Minor Leagues since Darren Dreifort of the Dodgers in 1994.

And the first drafted starting pitcher to skip the minors since Jim Abbott.

As a rookie, Abbott went 12-12 and finished fifth in Rookie of Year balloting despite an ERA that was just average. The next season he was just decent, as his walks went down but so did his strikeouts. In his third season, though, Abbott upped his strikeouts a little, cut his walks a little, gave up only 14 home runs in 243 innings, and finished third in the Cy Young balloting.

Abbott pitched roughly as well a year later, but suffered one of the all-time unluckiest seasons and his record fell from 18-11 (in 1991) to 7-15. He pitched a LOT of innings before he turned 25, and the rest of his career, frankly speaking, wasn't real good. Abbott was finished before his 32nd birthday; in his last six years, he walked nearly as many batters as he struck out. There was that one magical game in 1993, which seems like it came near the end of his career but was actually closer to the beginning; he had six more tough years afterward.

Hey, it was a good career. But Jim Abbott didn't win 100 games. Most exciting rookie pitchers don't. It's a tough business. In the short term, I won't be surprised if Mike Leake pitches pretty well and wins a dozen or so games. In the long term ... well, there's nobody alive who can know.