Leasure debuts as first alum of new Appy League

April 1st, 2024

CHICAGO -- No. 18 prospect made his Major League debut with a scoreless sixth inning against the Tigers on March 30 at Guaranteed Rate Field.

After allowing one hit, walking one and striking out one during what became a 7-6 loss to the Tigers in 10 innings, the rookie hurler was presented with a bottle of Dom Perignon by teammate Dominic Leone. All the White Sox relievers signed the bottle as a big league welcome.

In the process, the 25-year-old right-hander became the first player from the Appalachian League to reach the Majors since it was announced as an MLB partner in 2020 to begin in the ’21 season.

“That was cool, especially being one of the first players through that league when it first turned over to the college summer league,” Leasure said. “All the guys I played with on the team, I still hear from them, reach out to them and kind of stayed friends.

“Hearing from them, telling me congrats, it was kind of cool. They are still supporting me a lot.”

Leasure was drafted by the Dodgers in the 14th round of the 2021 Draft, and was traded to the White Sox at the 2023 Deadline along with right-hander Nick Nastrini and outfielder Trayce Thompson in exchange for right-handed starter Lance Lynn and right-handed reliever Joe Kelly. His time in the Appy League came during the summer of ’21, when he pitched for Elizabethton in Tennessee and recorded a 1.29 ERA in six games.

The goal of the partnership was to “feature the top rising college freshmen and sophomores in wood-bat play each summer,” according to the press release announcing the league partnership. Leasure pitched four seasons for the University of Tampa, earning six saves in ’21, but it was time with Elizabethton that helped to shape his young career.

“I think so,” Leasure said. “They sent a lot of really good players there, so going from the college season to that before the Draft, kind of facing some good guys, guys who played at Division I schools, it was a cool experience.

“Super small town, but the games there, a lot of fans came. There’s not much to do but go to the games. They were really supportive of us. It was fun to play there. The facilities that they had there were super nice too. It felt like a pro-ball-type deal.”

Players lived in the East Tennessee University dorms in Johnson City when Leasure was part of the Appy League. His accommodations have gone up in luxury status in his climb to the White Sox, where he will be used in a variety of relief roles.

But with a fastball hitting near 100 mph and a curve developed since joining the White Sox, Leasure has the makings of a future closer.

“Power stuff, strike thrower, weapons to strike people out. Composure, high character, good makeup,” said manager Pedro Grifol. “I haven’t seen a moment get too big for him.

“I haven’t seen a moment overtake his character and personality. I’ve seen him stay within himself, not too up, not too down.”

In his second outing against the Braves during a rain-soaked Monday, Leasure needed just nine pitches to get through a scoreless seventh. Nothing can replace that first outing, which followed up the news of Leasure breaking camp with the team and took root in the Appy League.

“A lot of excitement. A lot of nerves,” Leasure said of his debut. “Definitely relieved to have that one over with and settle in and go from here. That was a special moment for me, just going out on the field, looking up and seeing the stadium, all the fans. It was pretty cool.

“Now, I’m just one of the guys, and I think that’s why I wanted to get that first one out of the way. Settle in and have a role in the bullpen and hopefully contribute to a lot of wins.”