With COVID-19 shutting down all of minor league and independent baseball seasons, Leibrandt took the chance to play in the SOMERSET Professional Baseball Series, a creation of the Somerset Patriots of the Atlantic League to bring baseball back to New Jersey. The league consists of two teams comprised of local players that are managed by the Somerset Patriots. The 13-game schedule all takes place at TD Bank Ballpark in Bridgewater, New Jersey. The combination of one site, and sticking to local players, was by design to help reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading with travel from state to state.
“While our main focus of bringing professional baseball back to New Jersey was to honor our commitments to the community, it also serves as an opportunity for some truly talented players to showcase their abilities at a high level,” said Somerset Patriots President/General Manager Patrick McVerry.
Playing for the newly formed New Jersey Blasters in the series has led the former sixth-round pick of the Philadelphia Phillies to get a shot with Miami in 2020. The Marlins purchased the southpaw’s contract after he dominated through three starts in which he went 1-0 with a league-leading 0.75 ERA and 15 strikeouts over 12 innings pitched. In his final start for the Blasters, Leibrandt tossed five shutout innings and allowed just two hits with one walk and seven strikeouts for the win over the Patriots.
“It’s been two years since I pitched in a real game. With no baseball going on, I figured it was a good chance to at least get some innings in,” said Leibrandt. “I’m thankful that the Patriots put the series on. It felt great to be in front of fans and face live hitters again.”
The decision to take the field this season was influenced by his friend and former major leaguer Mark Leiter Jr., a member of the Somerset Patriots, who helped convince Leibrandt to give it a go. Living together in New Jersey for the series allowed both pitchers to push each other, stay in shape, and get their work done to be ready for the next opportunities available to them.
Leibrandt missed last season due to injury, but in 2018, he was 4-1 with a 1.42 ERA and 32 strikeouts over 50.2 innings pitched in 20 games for Triple-A Lehigh Valley. He seemed on track for an MLB call-up before the injury derailed him for the time.
“I just wanted to show I was healthy and myself again,” Leibrandt said. “I worked to fix some mechanics and have that feel where the ball is coming out good and trusting my pitches again.”
In 2017, Leibrandt split 25 appearances between Double-A (Reading) and Triple-A (Lehigh Valley) and combined for an 11-5 record, 3.62 ERA and 105 strikeouts in 136.2 innings pitched across 25 starts.
He joins the Marlins organization with an impressive 29-15 record, 2.88 ERA and 313 strikeouts over 400 innings pitched across 86 games in his minor league career.
He now has the chance to follow his father, left-handed pitcher Charlie Leibrandt, into an MLB career. The senior Leibrandt had a 14-year career in the “Big Leagues” with the Cincinnati Reds, Kansas City Royals and Atlanta Braves.
“It would be a dream come true,” added Leibrandt. “My dad had a great career and our stories have many similarities. He didn’t get called up until his late 20’s and has been a constant inspiration for me along the way. He was always there to throw and coach me. He’s been nothing but helpful throughout my career.”