, pub-3283090343984743, DIRECT, f08c47fec0942fa0 Rangers To Promote Jack Leiter
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Rangers To Promote Jack Leiter

The Rangers announced this morning that top pitching prospect Jack Leiter will have his contract selected to the major league roster and make his big league debut Thursday against the Tigers. Texas has a full 40-man roster and will need to make a corresponding move to accommodate the right-hander, whom they drafted with the No. 2 overall pick in 2021.


It’s an early birthday present for Leiter, who’ll turn 24 just three days after making his long-awaited debut. The second-generation talent is the son of two-time World Series champion and two-time All-Star Al Leiter, the nephew of 11-year MLB veteran Mark Leiter, and the cousin of current Cubs setup man Mark Leiter Jr.

The fourth Leiter to reach the majors, Jack hasn’t had the most straightforward path to the show despite his considerable draft and prospect pedigree. He annihilated hitters in college ball at Vanderbilt, fanning 41% of his opponents in two seasons prior to being drafted, but struggled with command following an aggressive assignment to Double-A right out of the gate.

Leiter walked more than 13% of his opponents and posted an ERA north of 5.00 in each of his first two seasons at the Double-A level but has been an absolute monster in his first three Triple-A appearances this season. In 14 1/3 innings, he’s punched out 25 of his 57 opponents (43.9%), walked only three (5.3%) and surrendered just 11 hits. Four of those, unfortunately, have left the yard and saddled Leiter with a 3.77 ERA that’s far less impressive than his overpowering K-BB profile would otherwise suggest, but it’s hard not to be encouraged by the strikeout and walk trends. That’s especially true given that Leiter also pitched 12 2/3 innings for Texas this spring and posted a much-improved 9.6% walk rate in that short time as well.

Texas’ rotation has been hammered by injuries. Jacob deGrom, signed to a five-year contract in the 2022-23 offseason, opened the year on the 60-day injured list after undergoing Tommy John surgery last June. Max Scherzer, acquired at least year’s trade deadline, required offseason back surgery to repair a herniated disc. Twenty-six-year old southpaw Cody Bradford was a godsend through three starts to begin the season (1.40 ERA) … until he suffered a lower back strain of his own and was subsequently placed on the 15-day IL.

Leiter will step onto a starting staff that’s in flux. Veteran righty Michael Lorenzen, who inked a one-year deal late in spring training, made his Rangers debut yesterday with five shutout frames over his former Tigers teammates (albeit with five walks against four strikeouts). Veteran lefty Andrew Heaney would’ve been on tap for Thursday’s start, but he’s yet to last five innings in any of his three starts while pitching to a 6.75 ERA. It seems Leiter will overtake that spot, at least for the time being.

That all points to a rotation that’ll include Lorenzen, Leiter, Nathan Eovaldi, Jon Gray and Wednesday’s starter Dane Dunning — at least for the time being. It’s not clear how long a leash Leiter will be given if he struggles out of the gate, though one would imagine the Rangers are planning to give him multiple starts following his initial call to the big leagues. Manager Bruce Bochy and/or general manager Chris Young will presumably expand on the team’s plans for their young righty in the days to come.

Leiter’s 2022-23 struggles were enough to drop him off prospect rankings, meaning he’s ineligible for MLB’s prospect promotion incentives. He won’t accrue a full year of service time, given the lack of sufficient time remaining on the calendar, nor can he net the Rangers a draft pick based on his Rookie of the Year voting. As it stands, he’ll be controllable through the 2030 season and is set up on pace to reach Super Two status, granting him four trips through the arbitration process rather than the standard three. The first of those arb-eligible offseasons would come in the winter of 2026-27, though future optional assignments could yet impact both his free agent timeline and arbitration status.