- Full name José Ramon Leclerc
- Born 12/19/1993 in Esperanza Valverde Mao, Dominican Republic
- Profile Ht.: 6'0" / Wt.: 195 / Bats: R / Throws: R
- Debut 07/06/2016
Organization Prospect Rankings
A reliever his first four seasons, LeClerc moved to the rotation in 2015 at Double-A Frisco but had the worst season of his career. He returned to the bullpen in 2016 and made his major league debut with three appearances in July before returning to Triple-A Round Rock and then returning as a September callup. LeClerc has the stuff to be a quality reliever, but has to improve his control to stay in the big leagues. His quick arm delivers fastballs that sit 94-96 mph and can peak at 98. LeClerc has one of the most unusual changeups in baseball, with cutter-like action instead of armside fade, to the point some scouts think it's a slider. It's an above-average pitch, and he also has a straight changeup he uses as well. He mainly relies on his fastball-changeup combination, though he will mix in an occasional fringe-average curveball to give hitters another look. Fastball command and general wildness have long been an issue. At Triple-A, he got more swings and misses out of the strike zone, but major league hitters were able to resist. LeClerc should have a chance to win a job in the Rangers' bullpen in 2017 and could stay there if his location improves.
LeClerc had been a reliever his entire career, and the role was a good fit for his high-energy, power approach. At the same time, LeClerc had a diverse enough repertoire that the Rangers moved him to the rotation in 2015. The results were not encouraging. LeClerc's ERA and walk rate jumped as a starter while moving up to Double-A Frisco. Pitching from a crossfire delivery, LeClerc sits at 92-96 mph and touches 98. He throws two different changeups, one of which has unusual cutter-like action, confusing many scouts into thinking it's a slider. That pitch can be plus and he uses it as a two-strike pitch, but he also uses a straight changeup to get across the plate. His curveball has good break and can be average, but Double-A hitters were able to detect it early out of his hand and lay off it more than lower-level hitters did. LeClerc's biggest problem is that he couldn't repeat his release point, so he either walked hitters or got hit hard because he was pitching from behind in the count. He's expected to return to Double-A as a starter in 2016, though he could end up in the bullpen again if his control remains a problem.
LeClerc has been a relief prospect his entire career, and it's a role that suits his power approach well. LeClerc sits at 93-95 mph and touches 97 with late life. He has one of the most unusual changeups in baseball because it has sharp cutting action instead of fade. It's a plus pitch that he can manipulate to get harder diving action at times. He adds and subtracts from his curveball, which is an average pitch that flashes better at times. LeClerc's strikeout rate has improved every year of his career, and he also induces grounders at an above-average clip. He has the stuff to pitch late-inning relief, but he needs to be more aggressive attacking hitters and throwing strikes, especially early in the count. He should move on to Double-A Frisco to begin 2015, with an outside chance of reaching Texas by the end of the season.
In June 2010 the Rangers signed Leclerc's older brother Angelo, who pitched for the organization's Rookie-level Arizona League affiliate the last two seasons. In December that same year, the Rangers signed Jose, who at the time was throwing 88-90 mph but with good arm action that made the Rangers think there was more velocity coming. His fastball crept up to 90-93 mph in 2012, when he spent his second season in the Dominican Summer League, and has continued to climb while pitching exclusively in relief. Pushed to low Class A Hickory in 2013, Leclerc's strikeout rate jumped along with his fastball, which parked at 94-97 mph with late life that can miss bats or get grounders at a high rate. He came to the U.S. with a good slider that's continued to improve to a plus pitch at 85-87 mph with sharp bite that he uses to finish hitters. His changeup and curveball can both occasionally flash average and gives hitters another look, though in the bullpen he often sticks to a two-pitch mix. Some scouts wonder whether Leclerc has the repertoire to transition to the rotation, and the Rangers have debated whether to let him start in 2014 or fast-track him in the bullpen. His next step will be high Class A Myrtle Beach.
Minor League Top Prospects
No CL reliever stuck out more batters (12.4 per nine innings) or allowed a lower opponent average than Leclerc. He saved 14 games and put to rest any internal debate in the Rangers organization about making him a starter. "In my mind, he has two plus pitches (with) that fastball and slider," Carolina manager Scooter Tucker said. "He really fits (the closer's) role well." Leclerc's mid-80s breaking ball has been a plus pitch since he began his pro career, but now he's sitting in the mid-90s with his fastball while showing feel for an average changeup. He could factor in the Rangers' bullpen as early as 2015.
- Dominican Republic activated RHP José Leclerc.