The Texas Rangers have historically not been known for developing quality pitching from within the farm system. Everyone associated with the organization is hoping to transform that narrative in the near future. Perhaps the centerpiece of that change, is going to be power righty, Jack Leiter.
Leiter was selected by the Rangers in 2021 with the No. 2 overall selection of the MLB draft. After a dominate college career for Vanderbilt University, the son of former big-league pitcher, Al Leiter seemed destined for a quick rise to the majors. In fact, Leiter started his pro baseball career by pitching for Double A Frisco and zoomed right past the Single A and High A level.
Texas Rangers not giving up on pitcher Jack Leiter
2022 was a rough year for the young Leiter. His stuff wasn't working the way that it had in college, and he appeared to be pressing and uncomfortable at times. Command, or the lack thereof, was his biggest enemy. Leiter would award walks and then get behind other hitters. In an effort to "just throw a strike" he would catch way too much of the plate and get hit hard. It was a fairly consistent outline for many of his starts.
This season started off similar to last. Lots of pitches, weak command of the zone, followed by some hard hits. To be honest, this kind of surprised me a little. I anticipated Leiter would get his head and mechanics squared away in the offseason and come into 2023 dealing. The reality of the situation, is that he is still learning, still developing.
The very nature of player development is a topic that can fill books and not just articles. It is not solely about stats or wins and losses. It is about working with each individual player and molding them into the best version of themselves that they can be. Sometimes it works perfectly and quickly, and yet sometimes it takes time and patience. Still other times, best laid plans don't work out because the grand game of baseball is hard.
This is what everyone needs to realize with Leiter. Having exceptional stuff and throwing a sterling bullpen is one thing, getting other pro ballplayers out is another. Leiter is working on two things simultaneously. He is getting his command in check while also learning how to pitch and not just be a thrower. His stuff was good enough that he could lean on that in college, even in the tough SEC. And as good as the SEC is at baseball, it is nowhere close to the lineups that he is facing in Double A.
Texas Ranger prospect Jack Leiter seeing improved results
In his last two starts, Leiter has managed to lower his season ERA from 6.75 to 4.35 thanks to pitching 11 innings and giving up only one run and no earned run. Over the two-game stretch, he has only allowed four walks (two each game) and one hit batter, given up 5 hits, and struck out 15. Strikeouts have not been an issue for Leiter. He has recorded 44 strikeouts in just 31 innings pitched this season.
As the command continues to improve, Leiter will be more efficient and thus will be able to go deeper into games. That is what he is working on and where he is headed. In last Thursday's start, Leiter went five innings and threw 88 pitches of which 56 were strikes. That is a huge improvement from where he has been. He appears to be pitching angrier and more aggressively and that is the Jack Leiter that Ranger fans are craving.
Jack Leiter is just 23 years old. Fans want to see him with 'Rangers' across his chest and pitching in meaningful games in Arlington. Can this happen, absolutely it can. There is no need to give up on the young hurler. Someone with his talent level, mental approach, work ethic, and pedigree isn't going to give up on himself just because there are bumps in the road. The fact that Leiter has run into some adversity isn't a bad thing. Most growth comes through difficulty.
Jack Leiter to pitch for Texas Rangers' Double-A affiliate Wednesday
I was a fan of the Leiter pick in the 2021 draft, and I am still a fan of his. Much like Leiter himself, we need to trust the process, and see where this thing lands. My guess is that before we know it, we will look up and be watching Leiter mow down opponents at Globe Life Field. Until then you can check him out in Frisco. Leiter is set to make his next start Wednesday night at home against the Amarillo Sod Poodles.