'It's all about baseball': Leiter ready for debut

January 11th, 2022
Ben Ludeman/Texas Rangers

ARLINGTON -- Jack Leiter hasn’t thrown a professional pitch yet, but that’s been by design for Texas’ No. 1 overall prospect.

The Rangers front office has been intentional with how they’ve handled the right-hander since drafting him at No. 2 overall this past summer. He threw 110 innings at Vanderbilt last spring and the Rangers didn’t want to overextend Leiter after a long college season in which the Commodores finished as the World Series runner-up.

After spending the summer and fall in Nashville, working out at the Vanderbilt pitching lab and furthering his degree, Leiter is ready to take the next step in his professional career in 2022.

“It's the first season and it's gonna be all about baseball and that's my job,” Leiter said. “That's what I'm going to be doing and obviously putting 100% of my focus and attention on. I'm just taking it one day at a time doing what I can today to be better than yesterday. Not just in baseball, but off the field as well. It's just doing what I can today and letting the long term take care of itself by just focusing on the day-to-day.”

Leiter, who was in Arlington for a series of leadership seminars with five other top-30 prospects and other Rangers staff, is headed to Arizona later this week for a pitchers camp out in Surprise. For Leiter, it’ll be the first time he’s fully immersed in Rangers personnel leading up to Spring Training.

He’s visited both the Surprise and Arlington facilities after signing back in July, but hasn’t had any in-person communication with Rangers staff since a trip out to the biomechanics pitching lab in October.

“The Rangers pitching lab is unbelievable in terms of the level of technology and the sort of information that they can gather,” Leiter said. “If anything, [the lab] just increases confidence in yourself. It’s a lot of technology that I don't even understand obviously, but people who do understand it a lot better than me can bring back information on what I do really well and I can kind of feed off of that and build confidence.”

While in Nashville, Leiter took what he learned from the pitching lab and worked on fine tuning various mechanics and pitch repertoire as he prepared for his first full professional season. Vanderbilt has an alumni locker room, where former Commodores can come to train in the offseason. Leiter always had a catcher to throw to or a place to work out.

Leiter admits to tinkering a bit with his pitch arsenal, which includes a mid-90s fastball, an upper-70s curveball, a low-80s slider and a work-in-progress changeup. He specifically pointed to working on improving both his slider and changeup.

“I'm always tinkering with certain grips and what my thought process is as I'm letting it go with fingertip pressure and stuff like that,” Leiter explained. “I slightly changed up my slider grip. The way I'm thinking about it, I'm trying to throw it a little bit harder and get a little bit more downward tilt instead of horizontal movement. The changeup is something I'm always working on and I found a grip that I liked and I’m working on getting it consistent and building confidence.”

Leiter figures to be on the fast track to the Show and he’s confident in his abilities to get there.

“I mean the confidence in any pitcher would say that I can face a big league lineup,” Leiter said. “Even the big leaguers won’t hit 1.000. So, I mean, I feel like I can. I know I can face big league hitters. It's just about consistency and continuing to refine certain things, but it's the same game. I feel like I would attack a lineup the same or similar way if it was a high school lineup or an SEC lineup or a big league lineup.”