Name: Cory Luebke
DOB: March 4, 1985
"Luebke was the best out of the bunch pitching-wise from this draft," former Padres minor league field coordinator and current MLB scout Bill Bryk said. "He has a high ceiling."
Despite throwing an abundance of innings this year between college and the minor league ranks, he was the man that the Padres believed could assert himself down the stretch and in the playoffs for the Storm.
Luebke was a bit gassed in California League play, although he was able to escape some trouble in the playoffs. He went 1-1 with a 3.18 ERA over three playoff starts but sported a 1.41 WHI due to an uncharacteristic six walks in just 11.1 innings.
After going 9-1 with a 2.07 ERA for the Buckeyes – a team that rode him hard for 117.2 innings – Luebke was shipped to the short-season Eugene Emeralds of the Northwest League.
He lasted just eight outings, including three starts, before getting moved up to Low-A Fort Wayne. Before he left, Luebke amassed a 3-0 record with a 1.46 ERA. In 24.2 innings he allowed 18 hits, whiffed 26 and walked just two – giving up two runs or less in each outing.
Fort Wayne proved to be a slightly bigger challenge as his workload was upped. After not working five innings with the Emeralds, Luebke went five or more in four of his five starts with the Wizards. He worked in five games, all starts, going 1-2 with a 3.33 ERA. In 27 innings, the left-hander allowed 29 hits allowed and five walks while fanning 30.
After working 5.2 scoreless innings on August 21, Luebke was summoned to the California League. In his first start, he was shelled for six runs on nine hits over four innings before bouncing back in his last start of the regular season – a three-inning outing that saw him yield a single hit.
In total, Luebke tossed 187.2 innings between college and the professional ranks.
"Real deal," Eugene manager Greg Riddoch stated. "Once he gets that slider and that change going he is going to be tough. He is a good kid, has a great body, a decent move to first – we started working on that but we really didn't have long enough to keep going.
"When a kid tells you that I didn't get much side work or help in the bullpen at Ohio State – you say, ‘A Friday night starter didn't get any help?' How many colleges have a good pitching coach?"
There are many who believe Luebke has a very high ceiling because of how raw he is in learning the fundamentals of the game and mechanics, despite attending a four-year college.
With three quality pitches, the southpaw was able to keep the opposition guessing. He has a terrific feel for pitching and more importantly – pitch sequences. Luebke was able to setup the hitters, work ahead in the count and use his above average control to get them chasing his pitch.
There are times when he will overthrow with two strikes, attempting to blow past a hitter, or be too fine, but he often composes himself and makes the smart pitch in the same at bat.
Luebke had a tendency to want to go with the four-seam fastball when he is ahead in the count because he has better control of the pitch, albeit with less movement. He has been working hard on controlling the sink of his two-seam fastball.
His fastball hits 94 MPH but sits in the low-90s. The two-seam fastball has a lot of late movement down in the zone but is still considered a plus pitch because he is a left-hander. He also has a bit of room to grow after putting on 10 pounds last year and could add a tick or two over the next year.
"I think his fastball plays a little higher than what the gun readings show," Fort Wayne manager Doug Dascenzo said. "He has the ability to throw the ball inside to right-handed hitters and has a nice breaking ball as well. He also has a nice feel for a changeup."
His changeup has improved, but Luebke will often try to be too fine in its placement, particularly on the outside corner.
"His size and left-handed, willing to work, he has shown to have a plus fastball, getting it up to 93 MPH," former Fort Wayne and current Lake Elsinore pitching coach Wally Whitehurst said of his plusses. "And that is after a college season so he is only going to get better with rest.
"He has a feel for a changeup and a slider. His slider to me probably needs a little work. At times he throws an average to above average slider. He is a great kid and is willing to work. He has a high ceiling."
Understanding that aspect of the game and being smart with his arsenal is something he picked up in his first year professionally. He was in the mindset of putting a hitter away with a perfect pitch – something that might have worked in college but has trouble translating to the professional ranks. The lefty knows he has to work to contact and get ground balls to be effective.
His slider has good tilt and has the makings of being a solid pitch with time. He prefers throwing the slider to left-handed hitters and working in the changeup to right-handers to give them a different break and a ball moving in the opposite direction.
Pounding the zone has been his motto and everything is setup off his fastball.
He is adept at holding runners on base but will lose his concentration at times as his focus turns to the batter.
"He is a fierce competitor," Bryk said. "His fastball is up to 94. He pitches at average but gets it up to 93 or 94 MPH when he needs it. He has an average slider and an average changeup."
"We talk about competitiveness - this kid has about as much as you could ever want," Dascenzo said. "Coming out of Ohio State and a real nice program – he competes like the dickens and you like that a lot. I like Cory and I think he is somebody who can probably go pretty quick."
ETA: Luebke is in the mold of Wade LeBlanc, meaning he is a talent the Padres expect to come quick. He has great baseball acumen and solid stuff with the know-how to succeed. It would not surprise to see him in Double-A by the end of 2008 and challenging sometime in 2009.
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