Erick Leal, righthanded pitcher, 6-3, 180
Signed as international free agent by Diamondbacks in 2011
Acquired February 18, 2013 in Tony Campana trade
Probable landing spot in 2014: Mesa
When the Cubs designated outfielder Tony Campana for assignment about a year ago, few expected much of a return at all. A speedy fan favorite, Campana was a chronic non-hitter, and his lone MLB home run was as much due to a first baseman (Yonder Alonso) playing left field as anything else. Also, when there are few teams seeking a player, that will tamp down on his ability to get a reasonable return in trade. Nonetheless, the Cubs netted two fascinating options in return.
With young international players, the interest is often the signing bonus. While that doesn't portend a guarantee, a significant bonus carries with it that numerous teams saw talent in the prospect's game. Here is Baseball America's look at the trade from a year ago.
Erick Leal will turn 19 in spring training. His upper-80s fastball has now jumped to (rather) low 90s. As he put in some work in Mesa last year, he is in line for a bump this season, either to Boise or Kane County. Actually, playing at both outposts is a legitimate possibility.
Anyone as remote as Leal from the majors is along the lines of what I call a "three-percent" or a "five-percent" player. While there is a rather remote shot of him being significant in the grand scheme of things, even a respected coaching staff needs talent in camp to elicit quality results. If Leal (or trade-mate Jesus Castillo, who struggled in Venezuela last season) puts together the velocity and control/command puzzle, he could be in Wrigley in a few years. Or, he could be traded yet again, for something of more value to the team.
I'd imagine Leal will be kept as a starter in 2014, even if that keeps him in Mesa for extended spring training. His repertoire make him a better starting candidate that reliever option (for now), and getting four inning stints would give him a better shot at working on his secondaries.
Backing up decent options in Mesa in April and May is a positive thing that doesn't translate yet to wins in Wrigley. But then, neither did having Campana starting in center field in 2012. Getting an arm like Leal for Campana makes me wonder what players are on Team Theo's list of players nobody has heard of they want to trade for from other systems. And they just might get a few of them.