Pittsburgh Pirates: Other Top College Names in 2021 Draft
Jack Leiter, Right-Handed Pitcher, Vanderbilt University
I said Kumar Rocker was one of Vanderbilt’s aces, that is because Jack Leiter is the other. Like Rocker in 2018, Leiter could have been a first-round pick in 2019. Instead, he once again made a strong commitment to be known and went to Vandy. Next year he will be a draft-eligible sophomore.
Interestingly enough Leiter has actually surpassed Rocker on FanGraphs’ 2021 Draft Board rankings. There are multiple reasons why; there are some questions about Rocker, meaning he is not necessarily a consensus number one pick. One thing that is playing in Leiter’s favor is his age and pedigree. First off, Leiter is about a half-year younger than Rocker, which in baseball currency matters. Secondly, he is the son of World Series Champion Al Leiter, giving him that extra tool of growing up around the game which is valued to an extent as well.
Overall, Leiter does not have the frame one would expect in a number one overall pick. He stands at 6’1” and only weighs around 200 pounds. Still, 6’1” is not a terrible height and should not limit him much on the mound. Overall, his value lies in his pitches. Here is a little blurb from FanGraphs on his two best pitches:
"At his best, Leiter was up to 98 mph and spotting a plus curveball with enough command to draw whiffs, but other times would be in the low-90’s with below average command. He’s sophomore eligible by age in 2021."
One thing is that in today’s game it is more about the pitches than it is about the pitcher. So Leiter may not have the big build that traditional starters have, but he has two plus pitches that also have plus spin rates. This spring he added a slider to his arsenal, something that most MLB teams want, and it is starting to show chances of being a plus pitch. If that pitch shows progress into next spring and his command improves, Leiter could make a case for being the top pick. If not, he will surely be off the board at number two or three.