As of this writing, Euclides Leyer has appeared in 19 games for the Atlantic League’s Gastonia Honey Hunters. All have been in relief, and he’s pitched a total of 19.1 innings. His stat line so far for the year reads; ERA of 0.93 and a WHIP of 1.086. It is true that good bullpen arms are a dime a dozen. This isn’t to mitigate good bullpen pitchers, but simply put, there are a lot of them and that’s why it makes it harder for really good relief pitchers to stand out. Leyer isn’t standing out because of what he is doing this year, but what he’s doing this year in comparison to the rest of his career.
Prior to 2022, Leyer had two full seasons with an ERA below 3.00. Sandwiched around those seasons he posted ERAs of 6.38, 7.97, 9.00, and lots of other high numbers. His WHIP, even in his pair of good seasons, was never below 1.200. To all of a sudden come out in 2022 and have an ERA below 1.00 and a WHIP below 1.100 makes Leyer’s turnaround worth talking about.
Since he started playing professionally in 2010 Leyer was viewed as a high-impact arm. He joined a bevy of young power arms out of the Dominican Republic camps who were more potential than reality. Throughout his career that reality never truly came. He threw hard, but not as hard as others. He threw strikes, but he threw way more balls than he did strikes. His frame never quite filled out in the manner that was expected. This all led to his departure from affiliated ball in 2016, which is the most likely outcome for Dominican Republic camp kids who don’t reach their potential.
Leyer didn’t leave professional baseball altogether in 2016, but he only made a few brief winter league appearances before returning full-time in 2021 with the Honey Hunters. He wasn’t good in 2021 for Gastonia, with a 7.97 ERA and 1.869 WHIP in 40.2 innings. Still, the Gastonia coaching staff felt that the potential Leyer once had was still there just waiting to come out. I won’t lie to you and tell you that I can see all the changes that Gastonia coaches implemented. Looking at the footage, not much has changed about Leyer’s arsenal. What has changed is that Leyer has drastically reduced his number of base on balls. He’s dropped from a 6.6 BB/9 in 2021 to a 3.7 BB/9 this year. He’s also dropped his K/9 from 10.4 to 7.0.
Looking at the above in conjunction with the footage it’s clear that Leyer is looking for more contact. He’s engineering contact that he can control while not nibbling around the edges with his stuff as much as he did in years past. It’s a small change, but it’s one that is working wonders for the 6’2’ right-hander. Leyer will need to continue to show that his current results aren’t a mirage. If he can do that then he may accomplish the not often seen feat of making himself into a sought-after relief arm. Whether that happens or not it’s nice to see Leyer turn things around after so many years of struggle.
Lead photo courtesy of Unknown – Toronto Star