Rangers call up pitching prospect Leiter

April 18th, 2024

On Draft night in 2021, Rangers general manager Chris Young said he always knew that was the right player for the Texas Rangers.

“Pitchers like him don't come around in very many Drafts in my 29 years of scouting,” amateur scouting director Kip Fagg said at the time. “He’s a special kid and a special talent."

A lot has happened since that night, and it’s been a long journey for both Leiter and the Rangers. But this is where both parties always expected to be eventually.

The Rangers are bringing one of their top pitching prospects to The Show. Texas will start Leiter, the club's No. 8 prospect, on Thursday against the Tigers in Detroit. The move was made official Thursday morning, with right-hander Grant Anderson optioned to Triple-A Round Rock and lefty Brock Burke transferred to the 60-day IL.

“He’s been throwing the ball very well down there,” manager Bruce Bochy said Tuesday morning. “What a great time to call him up because he’s been throwing well, and again, he’s earned this.

“I told him when he left [Spring Training] that we’re going to need him, and I loved the way he was throwing. I don’t think anybody thought we’d make the changes we’ve made already pretty early in the season [with Michael Lorenzen debuting Monday night]. But still, [Leiter] really came on at the end and was throwing strikes, the command, all that. I’m looking forward to watching him.”

The callup comes after Cody Bradford joined three big league rotation arms on the injured list last week: Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer and Tyler Mahle.

That’s not to say Leiter didn’t earn the callup. The right-hander got off to a solid start to his Triple-A season that included a 10-strikeout performance April 12 against Oklahoma City. Overall this season, Leiter has pitched to a 3.77 ERA in 14 1/3 innings with 25 strikeouts to three walks.

Leiter was the No. 2 overall Draft pick in 2021 after a stellar two-season career at powerhouse Vanderbilt. While in college, he pitched to a 13-4 record and 2.08 ERA, with 201 strikeouts in 125 2/3 innings for the Commodores.

Though he thrived in the early part of 2024, Leiter has had a rocky start to his professional career, including ERAs north of 5.00 in both 2022 and ‘23 as he was armed with an aggressive assignment to Double-A Frisco. But after a month-long stint on the development list last season, the Rangers’ No. 8 prospect made mechanical tweaks that appeared to have had positive returns.

He returned from the development list late last season and posted a 3.31 ERA, allowing just four walks while notching 25 strikeouts in his final four starts for Double-A Frisco. He made one start with Triple-A Round Rock at the end of the year before returning to the level to begin 2024.

Leiter came into Spring Training looking like a completely new player, exuding confidence and impressing the big league staff throughout camp. He’s far from a finished product, but this is the best he’s looked in his professional career. He’s looked more and more like the former version of himself, the one that was the ace of a Vanderbilt staff that went to the College World Series in 2021.

Steve Kornacki contributed to this report from Detroit.