It’s not often that an undrafted player ever makes it through the never-ending bramble of the minor leagues to emerge at the promised land of the big leagues.
Recent Rockies such as DJ Johnson and Josh Fuentes both completed this unlikely route after getting overlooked following stints at Western Oregon University and Missouri Baptist University, respectively.
With a markedly different 2020 MLB Draft than the first 55 versions, only five rounds of 160 total players were selected. Previously, 40 rounds and approximately 1,200 players drafted was the standard before this year’s drastic alteration.
The difference translates to an additional thousand-plus young men as undrafted free agents.
Following a 48-hour period of no contact or communication that ended June 14 at 9am EDT, any player who was not selected could be signed for a maximum of $20,000 as opposed to the previous standard of $125,000.
The first player to agree to this pact for the Rockies is 20-year-old University of South Carolina-Aiken catcher Luke Leisenring.
“Most scouts had him projected in the top 10 rounds. One even told me the sixth round,” shared USC Aiken head coach Kenny Thomas. “Of course coronavirus changed some things. That didn’t help. Glad to see the virus didn’t prevent him from signing with his home state club.”
After being ranked the top backstop and fourth-best player overall in the state of Colorado by Perfect Game, the Ralston Valley High School graduate took his talents to baseball powerhouse Arizona State.
In the process, Leisenring took ten classes as a junior – including four online – in order to graduate high school a year early in Tempe.
In 2018, ASU assistant coach Ben Greenspan preferred the 6’4″ switch-hitter’s glove at the time.
“Defense over the bat right now,” cited Greenspan, who also doubled as the program’s recruiting coordinator.
While his career with the Sun Devils would end after six starts and 24 at bats (.250/.345/.250), Leisenring would eventually transfer to the Division II USC Aiken and make much more significant impact over the course of two next two seasons.
Starting all 70 games during his time with the Pacers, including 20 games during the shortened 2020 season. The 6’4″ junior led the school with four home runs and 20 runs this year while registering a .348 batting average to go along with a .495 on-base percentage and .623 slugging percentage.
“He has more power from the left side. I used to think when he came to he was a more pure hitter from the right side, but as the years went by, he’s changed my mind,” Coach Thomas said of his backstop. “You can’t teach being a 6’4″ switch-hitting catcher with power.”
Thomas continues, “The thing I’m so excited about for him is that it’s with the Rockies. I’m sure it’s emotionally good for him. They come out smelling like a rose. They could have taken him in the eighth round and give him a lot more money than they did.”
Leisenring is the second catcher in the Rockies’ 2020 draft class following the selection of Drew Romo 35th overall out of The Woodlands High School in Texas.