Jack Leiter made his pro debut last night in Frisco. He’s super fucking good. That’s the whole story. The rest is just details, so here goes.
There was an uncommon energy and vibe in the park. I’ve certainly never seen this mojo for a debut. Gallo’s first game was buzzy, Nefty Feliz’s too. But nothing like this. The closest juice experience to Jack’s debut has been big league rehabbers. Josh Hamilton, Cole Hamels, and Yu Darvish all generated this kind of electricity and excitement on their brief stops off the D.L. But Saturday night was this kid’s first professional game. Unprecedented and wildly exciting.
The nitty gritty is that his stuff is elite. He was pulling his FB gloveside a bit early on, which isn’t uncommon when the adrenaline flows. Chatting with pitching coach Jeff Andrews after the game, he mentioned that FB command would likely be one of the last pieces of the puzzle to fall into place as the summer progresses. Speaking of the FB, he sat 94-96, until he got 2 strikes, then he seemed to easily reach into his back pocket for more velo. In the 2nd inning alone, he registered Ks on 98, 98, and 97. It’s there anytime he needs it. That’s big league shit. And the FB spins too. Usually around 2300, but it gets up to 2500 at the higher velos. And the breaking balls are incredible. Excellent shape and depth to both the CB and SL. The SL often spins more than the CB (2600-vs-2500). Andrews mentioned how fellow pitch wizard/Rangers Minor League Pitching Coordinator Jordan Tiegs began working with Jack at the end of Spring Training on refining his SL grip and it sounds like they’re optimistic it could leapfrog the CB someday soon. Which is saying something because the CB is fantastic. He started 3 hitters with 0-0 CBs in the 3rd. That’s ballsy and can be both frustrating and insulting to hitters. Jack does not care. He’s a killer. He didn’t throw any changeups tonight. He did tell me on Media Day that he uses a 2-seam grip for the CH that he kind of moves up towards the horseshoe a bit. Said he’s always had trouble pronating for the CH, so I’d guess you’ll see some upcoming games where he works on that pitch a bit. I’m very curious to eventually see his CH in person, if nothing else, just to see something moving in a different direction than his other pitches. The velo separation in his offerings is so impressive (95-98 for the FB then 77-79 for the CB). That makes for an unpleasant plate appearance for just about every hitter. And a very pleasant viewing experience for Rangers fans.
This kid is so polished. He showed both a slide step and full leg kick with a runner on first. The slide step was 1.22, which is, stop me if you’ve heard this before, big league shit. We got to chat with Jack after the game and to say he’s media-trained and smooth with the press is an understatement. He answers questions quickly and politely, and there’s an undeniable intensity to him that can’t be hidden (or taught). Frisco is a business trip for this kid. So too will Round Rock be. He’s a cannonball of power pitching and there’s intent and intensity in everything he does.
Without a doubt one of, if not THE most impressive young farmhand the Rangers have had in my 13 years of closely watching the squad. As you all know, it’s never a perfectly smooth road to the bigs, and there’s gonna be some dog outings, but this kid is every bit the real deal. Enjoy the ride, folks.
As Always, Enjoy Baseball!