Pittsburgh Pirates: Making the Case to Draft Jack Leiter


RHP Jack Leiter is one of, if not the best player available in this summer’s MLB Draft, and he’s the player the Pittsburgh Pirates should draft

This upcoming draft is very pitcher heavy. Vanderbilt teammates Jack Leiter and Kumar Rocker are the top two prospects in this summer’s draft. With the Pittsburgh Pirates having the number one overall pick they’ll get free rein over who they want to draft.

Given Ben Cherington’s history in last year’s draft and the trades he’s made so far, the Pittsburgh Pirates will almost assuredly select one of these two pitchers with the top pick in the draft. The pick, however, should be Leiter.

Leiter has been downright nasty so far this season with Vanderbilt. In 42 innings pitched Leiter has allowed just 2 earned runs on 10 hits while striking out 71 batters. Also, let’s not forget he pitched a no-hitter and had 20.2 consecutive hitless innings at one point.

All of this comes out to a 0.43 ERA, 0.61 WHIP and 1.45 FIP for Leiter. His only real weakness has been free passes with a 10.4% walk rate, but it’s his only blemish in an otherwise pristine season so far.

What does Leiter have that makes him stand out from the rest of the 2021 draft prospects? Well it’s his elite arsenal. Going into 2021 he was already projected to have a plus slider, curveball, changeup and fastball. Having four pitches that are considered above average offerings already is going to help you standout, but he’s improved his fastball to an elite level. In 2020 his four-seamer only averaged out in the low-90s. So far this season his four-seamer is sitting in the upper-90s and has touched 100 MPH.

It’s amazing to watch what he can do. He’ll throw a heater like this to a batter:

Then follow it up with a mid-70s curveball like this:

What Leiter can do on the mound is unfair. Now that’s not to say that Rocker isn’t a good choice either. He’s been just as dominant with a 0.84 ERA, 1.23 FIP and 0.74 WHIP through 43 innings of work. He has a nasty combination of pitches and has added a plus cutter to his arsenal.

However, while Rocker added a fourth above average pitch to his arsenal, Leiter had four above average pitches all along. Right now, FanGraphs projects Leiter to be the #1 pick, and also has him with a 60-future command grade, the highest command grade for any of the pitching prospects FanGraphs ranked.

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Choosing between Leiter and Rocker might be the hardest decision Cherington ever makes as the general manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Pirates have a ton of young, high ceiling/floor pitchers coming up through the system, but getting another almost can’t miss prospect in Leiter to pair with Quinn Priester would really give this farm system a major boost.