Baseball America tapped a scout in Arizona to break down the action at this weekend’s DeMarini Invitational at Arizona State’s Winkles Field-Packard Stadium.
DeMarini Invitational Day One
Kyle Gibson vs. Mike Leake
TEMPE, Ariz.—One of the premier early-season pitching matchups in the country came on Thursday, the first day of the DeMarini Invitational on the campus of Arizona State between the Sun Devils’ Mike Leake and Missouri’s Kyle Gibson (right).
The game drew more than 50 scouts, including scouting directors, assistant general managers and at least one GM in attendance. Most scouts were there to focus on the Tigers’ ace righthander Gibson, but Leake wound up as the star of the show, out-dueling the projected first-rounder. Leake’s first pitch was 91 mph as he used a mix of fastballs, changeups and a devastating slider to rack up 10 strikeouts with just one walk.
Leake had the Missouri hitters off-balance all night and carried a no-hitter into the eighth inning when Andrew Thigpen led off with a double to left field to end the no-hit bid.
The crowd gave Leake a standing ovation after the hit, and he then quickly retired the next three hitters to preserve the 2-0 lead after eight innings. Missouri rallied in the ninth off of reliever Mitchell Lambson before Jordan Swagerty recorded the final two outs to preserve the 2-1 win for Arizona State.
On the other side, Gibson looked impressive in his own right. The 6-foot-6 junior righthander gave up just two runs on five hits with eight strikeouts and no walks. His inability to hold baserunners close at first base led to both runs as Arizona State’s Matt Newman and Abe Ruiz both stole second base and scored as a result, for the only two runs given up by Gibson. His fastball sat at 90-92 mph in the early innings and dipped into the upper 80s as the game went on. He showed plus secondary stuff, racking up five strikeouts with his slider (82-84 mph with late, hard break). He used his changeup effectively to neutralize the Sun Devils’ lefthanded hitters, enticing weak ground balls along with two strikeouts. Arizona State’s hitters did make him pay when he left his fastball up in the zone. As a result, the Mizzou righthander threw more offspeed pitches after one time through ASU’s lineup. Gibson kept his poise and pitched seven strong innings for the Tigers.
The game did feature a few fireworks between the two teams. ASU’s Zack MacPhee brushed Missouri first baseman Steve Gray on a close play at first base. The two exchanged words as MacPhee headed back to the dugout. The next hitter, Jason Kipnis, was then promptly hit by a Gibson fastball on a 3-0 count. That drew a warning to both benches as both coaches came out of the dugout to discuss the situation with the home plate umpire.
Overall, both pitchers were as advertised. Gibson’s performance was that of a mid-first-rounder. But Leake got the better of him with location, competitiveness and impressive secondary stuff. One scout commented, “On size, durability and projection, there’s no question that Gibson goes before Leake in the draft. However, if I had to win one game it would be tough to not pick Leake to win that game based on what I’ve seen tonight and the last two years here.”
We’ll all find out when draft rolls around in a little more than three months.
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