Top Rangers prospects to experience Futures Game 

July 15th, 2022

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.

FRISCO, Texas -- Rangers’ top prospect Jack Leiter already had a long list of accolades coming into this season, but the right-handed pitcher is excited for this new challenge to add to the list. 

MLB’s No. 16 overall prospect, per MLB Pipeline, Leiter was recently named to the All-Star Futures Game set to take place in Los Angeles during All-Star Week at Dodger Stadium on Saturday at 7 p.m. ET.

“That's a really special, special thing,” Leiter said after the announcement. “It's something I'm really looking forward to, and it's just one of those things that I already know is going to be another awesome baseball memory to just have in the memory bank and tell my kids about. I think it'll make me better too, because just spending time with guys like that, who are going to be in the game and playing alongside them and being around the coaches. It's gonna be awesome.”

Leiter is going through growing pains in his first professional season, with a 6.30 ERA at Double-A Frisco, but he’s consistently shown his potential on the mound. His command has been the glaring issue, with 30 walks in 50 innings, but he has also struck out 62 batters.

The right-hander missed one start while being placed on the development list with mild arm fatigue, but returned last week and will be ready for the Futures Game. 

“I think it was a really good thing going into the second half of the season,” Leiter said. “Now I can just kind of focus on the actual improvements that need to be made, with the body feeling more fresh.”

Much of Leiter’s professional debut season can be defined by “one step forward, two steps back.” He’ll have a start that flashes his true potential -- like when he struck out a career-high eight batters in 5 2/3 innings on May 31 -- only to follow it up with two or three outings where he fails to get out of the third or fourth innings. 

Despite that, neither Leiter, nor general manager Chris Young, think the aggressive placement to start Leiter at Double-A rather than either A-ball level has contributed to his rollercoaster of a season. 

“It’s been an adjustment,” Leiter added on his struggles this season. “But it really just comes down to pitching. It's me against myself. So when the outcomes aren't quite what you'd like, which they haven't been, it all comes back to me just needing to be better. It's small things that just need to click and then usually everything else comes with it. I don't think it's too big of an adjustment in terms of the competition. It's more just raising the expectations and meeting those expectations for myself to continue to improve.”

“He basically skipped two levels of development that we felt he was ready for,” Young added. “His peripheral numbers are very good, and there's a learning curve. I think Jack is equipped to handle the challenges that come along with that. We're very pleased with [Leiter] and have full expectations that he’s going to have a strong second half of the season as he continues to improve and get better.”

Texas’ No. 7-ranked prospect Dustin Harris will also join his RoughRiders teammate on the American League squad after replacing Boston’s Brayan Bello, who was called up to join the big league club earlier this week. Harris is building off his best professional season in 2021, and entering Thursday, the recently-converted outfielder was slashing .260/.350/.466/.816 with 14 home runs and 17 stolen bases. 

Harris noted it took him a little bit to get settled in after the jump to Double-A to start 2022, but now he feels like he’s got his feet under him heading into the second half. 

“I think there's been a lot of room for growth, I'll say,” Harris explained. “I’m definitely not playing to my full potential. I feel like there's a lot of things I can fix, with just some minor adjustments. But I'm excited for the rest of the year so I can try to finish strong. I feel like I'm definitely on the right track. The power, I know, is always gonna be there. It's just putting consistent contact and being able to get on base and show my speed too.”