The future is bright in Arlington. The Texas Rangers had themselves a beautiful start to the offseason and that’s an understatement. With over half of a billion dollars being spent during the 2021 free agency and the team’s infield locked up with new acquisitions, Corey Seager and Marcus Semien, the Rangers are done losing and have now begun to establish a path to the franchise’s first World Series title. Along with their brilliant moves, the team will look to count on one pitching prospect to elevate them to the next level: Jack Leiter.
Leiter, son of MLB pitcher Al Leiter, is truly a prized prospect. In fact, Leiter is so dangerous on the mound that he has the potential to become a pitcher much better than his father could have dreamed to be. After skipping out on a chance to go to the MLB, Leiter decided to attend college and in the process, he significantly raised his value. He throws a solid pitch arsenal that includes a fastball, curveball, slider and cutter, with a changeup pitch coming as a work in progress.
But what makes Leiter so special? Standing at 6-foot-1, he’s fairly undersized, but that doesn’t stop Leiter from dominating on the mound. His fastball consists of a rate of 92-96 mph, a 2200-2400 RPM, an 18-20” vertical break and an 8.1” horizontal break. That fastball is his main pitch and there is a reason for that. While his spin rate on his fastball doesn’t jump out on paper, scouts have noted that Leiter’s fastball is no ordinary fastball with the pitch being known for its “reading life and outstanding metrics,” according to MLB.com. That rising effect, combined with an elite vertical approach angle, has allowed Leiter to strike out batters efficiently with his fastball.
Leiter’s other pitches are nothing to glaze over either. His curveball, which sits between 77-79 mph with a 2300 RPM, has great movement and tunneling that stunned hitters during the pitcher’s time at Vanderbilt University. Leiter’s less frequent pitches like his slider, which reaches 81-84 mph, only add to his list of pitches that make him so impressive against hitters.
With his selection by the Rangers with the No. 2 overall pick from the pitching factory that is Vanderbilt, Leiter is in elite company. The baseball pitching factory has crafted a collection of excellent MLB pitchers including Dodgers starter Walker Buehler, former all-star David Price and Kansas City Royals pitcher Mike Minor.
“It’s not easy to play in this program,” said Tim Corbin, head coach of the Commodores.
Scouts have compared the elite prospect to former Vanderbilt standout and current Cincinnati Reds pitcher Sonny Gray. However, Leiter already has a more developed repertoire than Gray and has the statistics to prove his polished skillset. His career at Vanderbilt saw the top prospect accumulate a 13-4 record with a 2.08 ERA and a 0.844 WHIP. Leiter, combined with 2021 No. 10 overall selection Kumar Rocker, absolutely dominated on the pitching end as the duo led the nation in strikeouts with 179.
Leiter is the perfect answer for Texas’ pitching needs right now. With the Rangers pitching rotation looking incredibly weak compared to their lineup consisting of Seager and Semien, the team needs to bolster that side of their team in order to confidently win ball games. Jon Gray as the team’s ace simply is not going to cut it for a team that wants to win. The team simply can’t depend on their batters to perform consistently if their pitching rotation is lackluster and has a high probability of giving up many runs.
While Leiter was just drafted to the Rangers in 2021, scouts already believe that they may see the prospect skyrocket through their farm system and end up on the major league roster in 2023. That would allow Seager, Semien and the rest of the team to develop great team chemistry and correct early mistakes. Texas may even be able to acquire additional pitching talent to bolster their rotation in time for Leiter’s debut on the major league roster.
Regardless of the path that the Rangers take in acquiring talent, it is no doubt that Leiter is special. He’s one of the most hyped up prospects that the organization has seen in years. If Leiter can continue to dominate and develop his skill set that he’s demonstrated throughout his professional career, batters will be in trouble when they have to face him. You can take that prediction to the bank!