Eddie Leon, The Twins First Draft Pick
by, 02-27-2013 at 07:18 PM (510 Views)
This is the first post in a series highlighting the Twins number one draft picks, originally published at BaseballTwins.com
In 1965, the first year of the MLB draft, the Twins had the ninth selection and used it on a talented shortstop from the University of Arizona, Eddie Leon. Leon ended up not signing with the Twins and went back to Arizona and earned All-American honors in 1966. Selected the following year, third overall by the Chicago Cubs in the June Secondary draft, Leon once again failed to sign with the club that drafted him and went back to school. Like he did in 1966, after returning to campus he once again earned All-American honors. Finally, in 1967, Leon was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the second round of the June Secondary draft and at the age of 20 reported to the Double-A Pawtucket Indians in the Eastern League. When asked why he declined to sign his first times through the draft, Leon told The Baseball Historian that not only was he not getting what he felt was an "adequate" bonus for a first round draft pick, but also because he wanted to finish his Civil Engineering degree at the University of Arizona.
Leon played 51 games for the Indians and hit .202/.261/.307 and made 13 errors in 211 chances posting just a .938 fielding percentage. Despite his poor performance at AA Leon was promoted to Triple-A Portland for the final 17 games of the year, where Leon hit slightly better .233/.283/.349 and made just two errors in 62 chances. In 1968 Leon played the full season in Portland, building off his late season success from '67. Leon's offensive numbers were up across the board, and while he committed 30 errors in 705 chances, he was rewarded for a successful season with a brief September call up with the Cleveland Indians. Eddie Leon made his Major League debut on September 9, 1968 playing in Metropolitan Stadium against the Minnesota Twins, the team that first drafted him three years ago, entering the game in the 9th inning as a pinch runner for shortstop Larry Brown. Two days later, once again against the Twins, Eddie Leon was back in the lineup as a 10th inning defensive replacement for Pinch Hitter Jimmie Hall. In the top of the 12th inning, with the Indians having just taken a 1-0 lead and runners on first and second with no outs, Leon stepped to the plate with a chance to extend the Indians lead and promptly struck out. Leon would appear in five more games that September but would not have another plate appearance.
In 1969 Leon was back in Triple-A, but after a strong first half in which he hit .262/.313/.349 and had his best fielding percentage of his Minor League career, he was promoted back to Cleveland and was the regular short stop for the remainder of the year. For the next three years Leon was the starting shortstop for the Cleveland Indians. Following the 1972 season, Leon was traded to the Chicago White Sox in exchange for Outfielder Walt Williams. 1973 was a struggle for Eddie Leon and he hit just .228/.291/.291. The early 1970s was certainly not a time of high offensive output, but Leon's hitting line was good enough only for a 62 OPS+ (only slightly better than perennial Twins All-Star, Drew Butera). Leon was a part time player in 1974 and only played in 31 games for the White Sox. Often appearing as a pinch hitter or late-inning defensive replacement, Leon only accumulated 53 plate appearances and hit just .109/.143/.130.
Following the 1974 season, Leon was once again traded, this time going to the New York Yankees in exchange for 31 year old reliever Cecil Upshaw. Eddie Leon played just two innings for the Yankees, entering the May 4th game in Milwaukee as a defensive replacement in the 8th inning and not receiving an at bat. That would be Leon's final appearance in Major League baseball as he was released by the Yankees the following day and spent the remainder of 1975 and all of 1976 playing baseball in the Mexican League for the Tampico Alijadores.
Read more about the Minnesota Twins at BaseballTwins.com, including the most recent post about Darin Mastroianni's Heat Maps.