When you have the No. 3 overall pick, it’s never too soon to take a quick peek into this year’s MLB draft. This year’s draft class is loaded with excellent hitting prospects, but is relatively weak on the pitching side.
Draft Prospects You Should Know is a new series that features prospects who the White Sox could pursue in this year’s draft. As the June draft nears, we’ll return to many of these athletes and provide updates on whether their stocks are rising (or falling).
Age listed as of Day One of the Draft (June 3).
Delbarton H.S. (Morristown, NJ)
Right-Handed Starting Pitcher
Baseball America 35
While there may be a handful of prep pitching prospects with better stuff than Jack Leiter in this year’s draft, none will have a better pedigree. You see, Jack’s dad, Al, pitched for 19 years in the majors, and his uncle Mark pitched for 11. Jack’s first cousin, Mark Jr., is currently pitching in the Toronto Blue Jays organization.
But while Jack’s pedigree may get him some notice, he certainly has the goods to be a potential first round pick on his own merit. After all, the New Jersey product fanned 20 while allowing only two hits over eight innings for Team USA at the Pan-American Championships last December.
Leiter is part of a dominant prep team that also includes potential first-day pick Anthony Volpe. For someone so young, Leiter has an impressive repertoire. His fastball, which typically runs in the low 90s, actually peaked at 95 mph in this year’s Area Code games according to MLB. Other pitches, according to Baseball America, include a 12-6 hammer curve with an impressive 2,500-2,600 rpm spin rate, a solid low 80s slider, and a solid changeup in which he doesn’t alter his motion.
Growing around the game, along with a good work ethic, has aided Leiter in becoming one of the most polished pitchers in this year’s draft — prep or college. These are MLB’s grades for the righty: 60 fastball, 55 curveball and control, 50 changeup and slider. Certainly there are valid concerns about his size (6´1´´, 195 pounds), which may cause some concern as to whether or not he could handle a professional workload. However, his father was a similar size, while Hall-of-Famers Pedro Martinez and Greg Maddux were even smaller. Leiter may not be a future Hall-of-Famer, but it’s possible he can succeed despite a smaller build.
Leiter has a strong verbal commitment with Vanderbilt, and based on preseason projections, would likely be selected between the White Sox’s first and second round picks. If, for some reason he should fall to the second round, the White Sox would be crazy not to at least consider him there. If chosen, they may have to pay over-slot money in order to pry him from the Commodores.
The closest White Sox comp for Leiter would be, don’t laugh, Dylan Cease. Leiter displays neither the three-digit heater that Cease possesses (few do) nor his easy delivery; with that said, Leiter’s got a similar build with a more established repertoire than Cease possessed at the same age — with better command and control to boot. They also both possess outstanding curveballs.
Here’s a video of Leiter at the Perfect Game National Showcase, courtesy of 2080 Baseball: