It's never easy to pinpoint which MLB Draft prospects will end up being stars. The nature of the sport means that it takes years of development in the minor leagues to get a feel for what it takes to succeed. Plus, injuries and underperformance have plagued many "can't miss" guys before.
With that in mind, right-hander Jack Leiter looks like a stud. He's the son of two-time All-Star and three-time World Series champion Al Leiter, who played with the New York Yankees, Toronto Blue Jays, Florida Marlins and New York Mets. Leiter, now an analyst for MLB Network, has watched his son blossom into a star.
Jack was a 20th-round selection by the Yankees out of high school, but he opted to play college baseball under Vanderbilt Commodores head coach Tim Corbin. That decision has paid dividends for both player and team, and Leiter is set to be taken in the first 10 picks in the 2021 MLB Draft.
Jack Leiter Vanderbilt
Leiter shined at Delbarton School in Morristown, New Jersey as an amateur.
Historically, high school pitchers from the Northeast have a more difficult time adapting to the professional circuit. Leiter's move to the NCAA was clearly a shrewd one. Vandy has a historically excellent program that is a threat in the College World Series every single year and produced talented MLB pitchers like David Price, Sonny Gray and Walker Buehler.
In Leiter's first taste of action in Nashville last year, he surrendered just three runs in 15.2 innings before the coronavirus pandemic postponed the college baseball season. This year, though, he's taken his game to an entirely new level.
Jack Leiter. 16K No Hitter.
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) March 20, 2021
Right: Al Leiter pitching a no-hitter for the Florida Marlins in 1996.
Left: Jack Leiter pitching a no-hitter in college 25 years later.pic.twitter.com/plOzDWEL4p
— J. Moore (@MistaJRMoore) March 21, 2021
After starting the season 4-0 in 2021, Leiter threw a no-hitter against South Carolina, the first of its kind for Vanderbilt baseball since 1971. The 16 strikeouts he added boosted his draft stock even more.
Leiter has three pitches that are ready for the big leagues (curveball, slider, changeup) to complement his 70-grade fastball that tops out at 100 MPH. He seldom allows home runs, and while his control is an issue at times (he's walked the same amount of guys as he's allowed hits), that shouldn't hinder him too much.
RHP Jack Leiter MLB Draft
This is so impressive. Jack Leiter now at 20 straight innings without allowing a hit. He struck out two of three hitters he faced in the fifth, two on 78-79 mph hammer curveballs. If Leiter is commanding the FB CB and SL, it?s game over. Holding 93-95. #MLBDraft @VandyBoys pic.twitter.com/R3wxQKWU3j
— Kendall Rogers (@KendallRogers) April 3, 2021
Baseball America mock drafts have been high on Leiter all year, with some expecting the Pittsburgh Pirates to take him with the first overall pick. It's likelier he lasts longer than that. MLB.com thinks he could go No. 2 overall to the Texas Rangers.
Sharing a rotation with fellow potential top-10 pick Kumar Rocker, the Vanderbilt University starters have been as good as advertised in 2021.
Jack Leiter needs some time to iron out kinks, but he's on a fast track to the major leagues. He's going to be one of the most exciting players to follow in the coming years.
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