24. Chris Leroux -RHP - 6'6 - 210lbs
(last year: 28)
Chris Leroux was drafted in the 7th round of the pitcher-heavy 2005 draft. He was the 8th pitcher taken by the Marlins that year, and he was signed for $152,000. Even though he was an easy sign out of Winthrop University, Chris didn’t throw a pitch for the Marlins until 2006. Midway through his final season at Winthrop, he underwent Tommy John surgery and only threw 24.1 innings for the Eagles. Even though he was older than most of his future teammates in that draft, he would not be on the fast track because of how raw a pitcher he was.
In college, Leroux was actually a two way player, catching on days he didn’t pitch. In 2004, Chris hit .288/.382/.407 with 3 homeruns in 118 at bats. Even though he was considered a strong defensive catcher, the Marlins decided to make him a full time pitcher. In his final season at Winthrop, Leroux went 2-0 with a 3.70era and a 1.17whip in those 24.1 innings. In 2006, Chris got into 11 games between rookie ball, Jamestown and Greensboro, finishing with a 0-4 record and a 6.19era in 32 innings of work. That would be the last time he would be pitching as a starter.
Before the 2007 season, the Marlins turned him into a reliever, believing it would be better for him to throw an inning or two every other day or so, than try and go 6-7 innings deep every 5th day. The 6′6 Canadian throws a mid 90s fastball with an emerging slider. Because of how tall he is, along with his release point, the ball catches up to opposing batter very quickly. Back to full strength in 2007, Chris went 2-3 with a 4.14era and a 1.41whip in 71.2 innings out of the pen. He struck out 76 while walking 29. His 3.64 walks per 9 were the lowest he had since his high school days, while his strikeouts were on the rise too.
2008 was a bit of a breakout season for Leroux. He threw 74 innings in Jupiter, giving up just 60 hits while walking 26 and striking out 78. Opposing Florida State League batters hit just .225 against him, including just .208 after the All-Star break. Chris will be 25 in 2009 and will be a key member of the Jacksonville Suns bullpen. He is totally recovered from TJ Surgery and will be placed one of the first arms the Marlins look to if there is injury in the major league bullpen as he is now on the 40 man roster. Many believe he will make an above average closer, especially if his changeup improves over the next year or so. Leroux is definitely someone to keep an eye on in 2009 and could make an impact on the big league roster late in the season.