A strong, well-built righthander, Leal turned heads by but allowing a run through his first 17.1 AFL innings. He was touched up his last start of the fall, but his performance in Phoenix—generally a hitter’s league—has been impressive nonetheless. After missing all of 2017 with an elbow injury, the 23-year-old spent 2018 with Advanced A Myrtle Beach where he held hitters to a paltry .156 batting average in 63.2 innings.
Leal’s effectiveness stems more from pitchability and strikethrowing than raw stuff. His fastball sits 91-to-92 mph, and although it has some life, the pitch can be squared when he’s not working it to the edges. With a quiet delivery, Leal is largely able to do that, keeping the pitch down with plane from his high three-quarters slot. He works in-out and up-down to keep hitters off-balance, aided by an average mid-70s curveball thrown in all counts. He throws his 83-to-85 mph changeup to both righties and lefties, able to show it early in counts and keep hitters off balance—compensating for only modest fade. Overall, Leal grades out to three future average pitches and average command, a repertoire built more for inducing soft contact than it is for missing bats.
As Leal faces higher quality hitters, his stuff will be exposed by MLB hitters better able to find the barrel. That said, his above-average control and wide mix of pitches can get him to the big leagues in a mopup or long relief role.