Q&A: Leiter talks Maddux, music and more

March 18th, 2023

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Rangers have a rotation with elite upside at the big league level this season, but five years of drafting high and making savvy Trade Deadline deals has put the club’s farm system in the best place it’s been in a decade, especially on the pitching side.

, Texas’ No. 5 prospect, headlines a group of pitching prospects that the Rangers hope will contribute at the big league level in the coming years. For Leiter, 2022 was a year full of adjustments as he went from Vanderbilt straight to Double-A Frisco after being selected No. 2 overall in the ‘21 MLB Draft. He posted a 5.54 ERA in 92 2/3 innings, hitting more than a few speed bumps along the way.

We caught up with MLB Pipeline’s No. 78 overall prospect, looking for a bounce-back season after his first big league camp:

MLB.com: First we'll start with baseball stuff. Looking back on last year, what did you learn the most about yourself in your first professional season?

Leiter: I think I just learned a lot about routines and the overall process in your first professional season. You know the way it went, obviously, results-wise, it didn't reach my expectations or anywhere near it, but I think I learned a lot through the ups and downs. So I’m looking forward to taking those learning experiences into this year and moving forward.

MLB.com: This is your first big league camp -- how has that been? How have the veterans been with giving you advice and things like that?

Leiter: It’s been awesome. The staff, the other guys -- from the young ones to the veterans -- have helped with a lot of the experience. They've all been extremely nice and helpful and willing to talk and kind of take me through their process and their routines and just give me ideas. It's been really helpful.

MLB.com: We saw you a couple of times talking to [special instructor] Greg Maddux out there. How's it been having a guy like him -- Hall of Famer, 18 Gold gloves, whole nine yards -- out here with y’all?

Leiter: It's the same thing as these veteran guys just on a whole other level. He’s somebody who did it for a long time at that high of a level. It's pretty amazing just to have him around. Just to see him, let alone talk to him and bounce ideas off of him and just hear what he has to say, it's been awesome.

MLB.com: What have you learned from some of those big leaguers that have been around you these first three weeks of spring?

Leiter: It's like an endless bank of knowledge that we have in the clubhouse and on the field with, obviously, Maddux, too. Everybody can see why, obviously, he had a great career and accomplished a lot of what I want to accomplish. And then you look at the lockers next to you, and there's guys who are still doing it who have done it for the past 10 or 12 years. That's really cool. So I think I've learned a lot just trying to listen and quietly observe as they go about their business. It’s all been really cool.

MLB.com: Couple non-baseball questions -- who’s been your biggest baseball influence that's not your father [Al Leiter]? Non-baseball athlete?

Leiter: I'd say when I was young, it was Pedro Martinez, who works with my dad on MLB Network, so I've been able to meet him a couple of times. Just watching his old highlights, it's special. I think he's somebody that every pitcher should look up to. My favorite non-baseball athlete, I think I'm going to go with Tyreek Hill right now. Or Jimmy Butler. I'm a Miami sports fan, so those two for sure.

MLB.com: Favorite road city so far? I know you’ve only really been in the Texas League.

Leiter: I liked Springfield, [Mo.] I also liked Wichita, [Kan.]

MLB.com: What's on your playlist, what kind of music are you into? Is it the same pregame, or do you like to change it up a bit?

Leiter: I like all kinds of music, but my go-to in the car is probably country music. I go in phases, though. Pregame there's some times where I want some, like, hardcore music to get, you know, super pumped up and locked in. There's some times where I try to keep it loose, and I'll listen to something like country music. I like Luke Combs, Riley Green, Morgan Wallen, those types of guys.

MLB.com: Last one -- what kind of shows are you binging or have you binged this offseason?

Leiter: I'm actually looking for show recommendations because I haven't been able to find some recently. I mean, I'm a big Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad kind of guy. So those are probably my top two, but I didn't binge much this offseason.