After A Tough Debut, Rangers' Jack Leiter Looks For Fresh Start
The biggest jump a player makes in his career, Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux says, is moving from High-A to Double-A.
Jack Leiter jumped from Vanderbilt in 2021 to Double-A Frisco last year to make his professional debut.
The results—a 5.54 ERA and 1.55 WHIP in 92.2 innings—suggest it was like Leiter was putting together a 5,000-piece puzzle and couldn’t find the edge pieces.
The 22-year-old thinks he has them now, and a simpler foundation will help him get a fresh start in 2023.
“I feel like it was a super productive offseason," said Leiter, the No. 2 overall pick in 2021. “For me, it was a lot of the little things. I’ve always been a worker, and I think at times that can come back and bite me a little bit, and I can try to overdo things and do too much.
"I think that’s sort of the story of last year.”
Leiter's biggest goal is to recapture the characteristics that made his fastball so effective in college. The pitch is at its best when it’s up in the zone, but he also needs to be able to throw it for strikes.
Leiter walked 5.4 per nine innings last season.
He also had to adjust to the demands of the schedule. He lost 12 pounds during the steamy Texas League season because he couldn't keep enough fuel in his system. He remade his diet during the offseason and will continue that during the season.
He also had to adjust his routine early on to accommodate for night games. He was Vanderbilt’s Saturday pitcher, which usually meant 11 a.m. or 1 p.m. start times.
“It’s a lot of time in the day,” he said. “You just want to get going. You want to get there and do your thing. That’s going to be an adjustment this year.”
The Rangers like where Leiter stood as he entered big league camp as a non-roster invitee.
“Your first year, you go to Double-A. That’s a huge jump,” Maddux said. “The school of hard knocks is always a good way to learn, and I think he did.”
— Minor league righthanders Chase Lee and Marc Church were drawing rave reviews early in big league camp. Lee was the Rangers' minor league reliever of the year in 2022 and has a chance to make his MLB debut this season. Church finished at Double-A Frisco.
— Sebastian Walcott, the Rangers’ key signing in the January international signing class, arrived at spring training on Feb. 24. The shortstop from the Bahamas will start his pro career in June in the Dominican Summer League.