Vanderbilt ace Jack Leiter parlayed his breakout college season into being selected No. 2 overall by the Texas Rangers in the 2021 Major League Baseball draft.
Pitching alongside fellow top prospect Kumar Rocker, Leiter was the most-talked-about player in college baseball this season. He was a well-regarded player coming into 2021 but only threw 15.2 innings in his first year at Vanderbilt last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
After starting this season allowing just one earned run in his first seven starts, including a streak of 20 consecutive innings without allowing a hit, Leiter put himself squarely in the mix with Rocker and Texas high school shortstop Jordan Lawlar to go No. 1 overall.
In MLB.com's final draft rankings, the 21-year-old was the top prospect in this class:
"Leiter usually works at 90-95 mph and tops out at 97 with his fastball, which plays like an elite pitch because of its riding life and outstanding metrics, such as its induced vertical break. He gets an exceptional amount of swings and misses in the strike zone with his heater. He also has a 12-to-6 curveball in the upper 70s that he can both land for strikes or get hitters to chase, and his feel for spin also translates into a low-80s slider that some evaluators think has more upside than his curve."
Leiter was the most dominant pitcher in college baseball this season. He had a 2.13 ERA with 48 hits allowed, 45 walks and 179 strikeouts in 110 innings. The 21-year-old allowed more than three hits in just four of his 18 starts.
As the Rangers continue to rebuild their farm system, the addition of Leiter gives them a potential frontline starting pitcher to build around.
Their recent track record of developing starting pitchers has been a problem, even when they were making the playoffs in 2015 and 2016. Martin Perez was a disappointment before leaving as a free agent after the 2018 season. Yu Darvish was great for them, but he was already developed as a pitcher during his time in Japan.
However, Leiter's track record and pedigree as one of the nation's best pitchers at one of the best baseball schools in the country is an encouraging sign for the Rangers. He likely won't need a lot of time in the minors before being called up to anchor their starting rotation.