Oh, Canada! Leach becomes 1st Canadian selected in 2017 MLB Draft
By: Dylan Perego
The Minnesota Twins kicked off the second round of the 2017 MLB Draft by giving Canada its first selection of the year in the form of right-handed pitcher Landon Leach.
Leach, a native of Pickering, Ont., became the first Canadian-born player chosen in this year’s draft when the Twins used the 37th overall pick to select him on Monday.
The 17-year-old hurler has garnered attention from both his involvement with the Canadian Junior National Team, as well as the Toronto Mets Baseball Club, an organization that, on its website, says it is “committed to the development of high performance amateur baseball in the City of Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area.”
At six-foot-four, 220 pounds, Leach’s dominating skill set from the mound includes a fastball that consistently reads in the 92-94 mph range and has maxed out at 96 mph. The current average fastball of a major league pitcher is just shy of 92 mph, according to data obtained from Fangraphs.com.
Leach also boasts an effective slider in the 82-85 mph range with a changeup at 80-82 mph, according to Prep Baseball Report Ontario, which describes itself as a “scouting, events, and multimedia company that specializes in the promotion of high school baseball players.”
Chris Kemlo, head coach of the Toronto Mets 18 and under team as well as the Ontario scouting director for Prep Baseball Report, said that Leach was drafted in the exact area he was anticipating heading into Monday.
“I was thinking second round,” Kemlo said. “I knew teams were interested in him, and Minnesota was down to their last pick [of the day]. The draft is unpredictable, but he really gained traction over the last couple of weeks.”
Kemlo believed that Leach had the potential to be a high-end prospect for some time, but said that it was within the last calendar year when he really started to make a name for himself.
“He really started to set himself apart last summer and into the fall,” Kemlo said. “He was already at the 90 mph mark, but that’s when the 92’s and the 93’s started coming in, while he was with the junior national team.”
Leach is currently committed to the University of Texas, but that decision to attend an NCAA university would prolong the opportunity at a professional career until after his junior season, as per NCAA regulations.
Kemlo thinks that despite the prestigious honour of playing for a program like Texas, Leach will elect to turn professional.
“I think he will end up signing,” Kemlo said. “Clubs who take guys in the first and second round generally have a good idea of who is willing to sign before they make their decision.”
Leach joins a list of elite companies fortunate enough to claim status as the top Canadian selected in the MLB draft.
Right-handed pitcher Cal Quantrill of Port Hope, Ont., was the top Canadian selected in last year’s draft, being taken with the eighth overall pick by the San Diego Padres. In 2015, the Miami Marlins made outfielder Josh Naylor from Mississauga, Ont., as the top Canadian with the twelfth overall selection.
Other notable recent top Canadians include Pittsburgh Pirates right-handed pitcher Jameson Taillon (2010), Seattle Mariners left-handed pitcher James Paxton (2009).