Cole Leonida was a big fish right out of the gates; in 2007, his senior year of high school at Grandview high in Colorado, he was named a Louisville Slugger High School All-American after leading his team to the Class 5A Centennial League baseball championship. He already had a scholarship from Georgia Tech waiting in the wings. His mission? Only to replace Matt Wieters by backing up incumbent Jason Haniger. Big shoes to fill.
Haniger was a pretty good player, though; he hit .329/.415/.638 in 52 games during Leonida’s freshman year, giving Cole 26 games, in which he hit only .145/.277/.291. It didn’t look like Leonida had long-term potential. Haniger was drafted by the Pirates in the 8th round in 2008, but he chose not to sign, returning to Tech for a .311/.388/.473 campaign after which he went undrafted. That has to suck.
Leonida got about the same amount of playing time as the previous year, but improved to .306/.407/.556. Not too bad, right? He was handed the starting job in 2010, and proceeded to hit .296/.370/.500 with 11 home runs in 62 games as the Jackets became a powerhouse yet again, but were eventually eliminated from the playoffs. Just a few days later, the Nationals picked Leonida as the first pick of the sixth round. He was happy about it:
I’m really excited about it, because they’re a team that’s definitely going in the right direction. They’ve had, obviously, a good draft the last two years and they’ve got a lot of young talent. It’s also an organization where I could possibly move quickly because they don’t have a franchise catcher like (Jason) Varitek sitting in Boston for all those years. They’re still kind of on the up-and-up. It’s just a real good situation all the way around, and I’ve heard it’s a real good organization, so I can’t complain. I’m ecstatic.
Cole didn’t exactly get off to a stellar start in the system, though, hitting .146/.241/.184 with Vermont. He has loads of time, though, and I think his reputation is more as a defensive catcher than a hitter, so who knows? He may still make it. Only time will tell.