Leftwich earns own way onto Phillies' radar
With Major Leaguers in his family, seventh-round pitcher a competitor, and maturing quickly
PHILADELPHIA -- The scouts who made their way to Wofford College in South Carolina the past three seasons often noticed the last name first.
Leftwich, Leftwich, how do I know that name?
Hey, did his dad pitch in the big leagues?
Yes, actually. Wofford College junior Luke Leftwich's father, Phil, made 34 starts with the Angels from 1993-96, and his grandfather, Tom Timmermann, pitched six seasons with the Tigers (1969-73) and the Indians (1973-74). But Leftwich, whom the Phillies selected on Tuesday in the seventh round of the 2015 MLB Draft, needed more than baseball history in the family to get selected on Day 2 of the Draft.
"We feel we have somebody who has the ability to start and stay in that starting role because of his tools," Phillies amateur scouting director Johnny Almaraz said. "Along with the ability to pitch, our people felt that he was an extreme competitor."
Leftwich went 7-2 with a 4.25 ERA in 16 appearances (14 starts) this season. Forget about the ERA for a moment -- the occasional big inning inflated that -- and consider the fact Leftwich struck out 114 batters and walked just 28 in 89 innings.
"You guys are going to get him at his best," Wofford College baseball coach Todd Interdonato said. "We've only seen him scratch the surface of his best in the last six weeks. He's definitely on the way up. He's not one of these guys you see go high [in the Draft], and they kind of sputter out. I really think he's going to make a steady climb, because he's just matured so much. I think he's just at the start of making a really nice run."
Interdonato said interest in Leftwich really spiked after a successful relief appearance in late April against Clemson.
Leftwich struck out three in 1 2/3 scoreless innings.
"After that, there were just a lot of people there every Saturday [to see Leftwich pitch]," Interdonato said. "I started to receive a lot more phone calls, a lot more emails, a lot more text messages. It just seemed like every one of his starts, his last four or five, there were between 15 and 30 people watching him every weekend."
Leftwich's fastball sits at 92-93 mph, and it occasionally hits 95 mph. He also throws a slider, curveball and changeup.
"We knew we had something special the first day he showed up on campus as a freshman," Interdonato said. "He showed up on the first day of campus and he looked like a man. Our pitching coach and I looked at each other like, 'This is not the kid we visited in high school. This kid looks like a man.' Everything from there just gradually increased."
Leftwich's family history might have gotten scouts to notice him initially, but Almaraz confirmed it had no bearing on the Phillies' selection.
"Not because his dad or grandfather played at that level," Almaraz said of the pick.
"You've still got to earn it on the back end," Interdonato added.