Rangers pitching prospects dazzle in Minors

May 7th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Kennedi Landry’s Rangers Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

ANAHEIM -- The Rangers have been praised for the elite group of pitching prospects they have acquired in the last two years, but the results haven’t always reflected  the talent throughout the farm system. 

On Friday, three of Texas’ top four pitching prospects combined for a huge night at three separate affiliates -- 16 innings, five hits, no earned runs and 19 strikeouts between , and

Leiter, the Rangers’ No. 4 prospect per MLB Pipeline, led the way with six scoreless innings in what was likely the best start of his professional career for Double-A Frisco. 

The even bigger development was that Leiter walked just two batters, while striking out seven. The 2021 first-round Draft pick has struggled with his command throughout his professional career so far, having walked 56 batters in 92 2/3 innings in his debut season. 

Friday was maybe the most comfortable he’s looked since his final season at Vanderbilt. 

“I watched the game. He was just very in control, smooth delivery, threw a lot of strikes, got ahead and used the breaking ball well,” said general manager Chris Young. “It's great to see and I'm glad the results match the way it looks. Sometimes the results don't tell the full story, and I thought in those last few games, he had pitched better than his results. Last night, he got the results to go with it, which was fun to see.”

Leiter’s former Vanderbilt co-ace in Rocker continued his domination over the South Atlantic League with the High-A Hickory Crawdads.

The Rangers’ 2022 first-rounder didn't allow a run in his first two starts of the season, combining for eight innings, 12 strikeouts and just one walk. Then Rocker hit a speed bump, allowing three runs and four runs respectively in his next two starts.

On Friday, the club’s No. 9 prospect righted the ship, tossing six scoreless innings with eight strikeouts to secure a victory for the Crawdads.

“He's been great,” Young said. “He's been efficient. He's throwing strikes, commanding his fastball, and throwing his breaking ball for strikes too with the swing and miss. He's doing everything that he can do. It's been fun to watch.”

When asked what Rocker needs to do in order to earn a promotion to Frisco, Young said it was simple.

“Exactly what he's doing right now,” he said. “Just continue doing that, and stay healthy. Continue to build up the endurance like he's done. He's doing a great job. It's really exciting.”

The youngest of the bunch, 2022 fourth-rounder, Porter has also hit his stride after stumbling through his first couple of starts in his professional career.

In his first two appearances for Single-A Down East, the Rangers’ No. 5 prospect went just four innings, walking five and allowing two runs. In the three starts after that, he allowed just one run across 12 innings of work.

In Friday’s start, he tossed four scoreless innings with four strikeouts to lower his season ERA to 1.69.

“He's just coming into professional baseball and getting his feet wet,” Young said. “He recovered from the first outing where he had some nerves for sure, and he's just attacking the zone, throwing strikes. His changeup is as good as advertised. It's been fun to see, and I just want to see him keep going. But he's been great and just getting his feet wet and just keeps building off what he's doing. But it's really exciting.”