Rangers prospects Langford, Leiter find way to Triple-A

September 27th, 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.

The Round Rock Express, the Rangers' Triple-A affiliate, has won more games in 2023 than in any regular season in franchise history, and clinched the Pacific Coast League second-half championship to end the year.

The Express will face the Oklahoma City Dodgers in the Pacific Coast League Championship Series this week, yet some of the biggest news out of Austin arrived on Sept. 18, when the Rangers promoted 2023 first-rounder and 2021 first-rounder  to Round Rock.

Langford, the No. 4 overall pick out of the University of Florida this year, has been on a tear since the Draft, jumping across four levels of the Minors and finishing hot in Triple-A to end the regular season.

• ACL (3 games): .385/.429/.846/1.275
• High-A Hickory (24 games): .333/.453/.644/1.097
• Double-A Frisco (12 games): .405/.519/.762/1.281
• Triple-A Round Rock (5 games): .368/.538/.526/1.064

“It's been incredible,” said Rangers assistant general manager for player development Ross Fenstermaker. “He’s everything our amateur group described in terms of the type of player he is, the work ethic, the way he plays the game. It's been really impressive to see the combination of power and plate discipline play out. He's played really hard in the outfield. Again, it's just been impressive. He runs the bases extremely well. It's hard to describe this, but he's a Ranger player. The things that we look for, the qualities that we look for in our players, he possesses all of them.”

Perhaps even more shocking than Langford's quick ascent was Leiter’s resurgence in recent weeks.

The Rangers’ No. 5 prospect, per MLB Pipeline, Leiter hasn't moved as quickly as expected when the club selected him at No. 2 overall in the 2021 MLB Draft. In his debut season in ‘22, the right-hander posted a 5.54 ERA in 92 2/3 innings with Double-A Frisco. He struck out 109 but walked 56 as he struggled with his command throughout the season.

Leiter returned to Frisco this year, but continued to struggle. He posted a 1.67 ERA with 33 strikeouts in five May starts, but ended up with a 5.51 ERA in 15 starts before the Rangers made the decision to place him on the Development List for the second time this season on July 15.

He was activated on Aug. 27 and posted a 3.31 ERA with only four walks, 25 strikeouts and a .186 opponent batting average in his final four starts for Frisco. In 81 2/3 innings this year for the RoughRiders, he struck out 110, which is tied for the most on the team

In his Triple-A debut on Sept. 24, Leiter pitched 3 1/3 innings, allowing three runs on eight hits and two walks with four strikeouts.

After what has been a roller coaster of a short professional career for the Vanderbilt alum, the Rangers have been happy to see the development and results play out for Leiter in the final weeks of the season.

“All credit goes to Jack,” Fenstermaker said. “He put in the work. He was committed to the plan and knew what he needed to do. He's come out and he's executed at a high level. We were really looking more at the delivery than any results, but we did believe that the delivery would lead to better results and more consistent results.

“A lot of that is just more competitive strikes and getting ahead and positioning himself to use his stuff to finish hitters. He's worked his tail off and he deserves all the credit for this. He’s spent a lot of time with Jordan Tiegs, our pitching coordinator, working on these things and we’re really excited about the progress that he's made.”