Friday on the Farm: Jack Leiter arrives for long weekend at Rangers’ instructs after touching 98 in recent bullpen at Vandy
(AP photo/Tony Gutierrez)
A two-day fall break at Vanderbilt started Thursday. For junior undergrad Jack Leiter, that meant trading time off from his degree path for his path with the Texas Rangers.
Leiter headed to Surprise, Ariz., for a long weekend cram session at the fall instructional league, where the plan is for him to continue to get a feel for the organization that selected him in July with the second overall pick.
He’s also going to throw a bullpen in the Rangers’ performance center. Apparently, Leiter has been performing well at Vandy.
“The only red flag is he might be throwing too hard in his bullpens right now,” said Ross Fenstermaker, who oversees Rangers player development.
Fenstermaker said that Leiter has touched 98 mph while throwing in Nashville, where Rangers personnel has visited to watch him throw on a program tailored to add things the Rangers want to see with what made Leiter successful in college.
He’s got a fully built-out program that we’ve collaborated with them on,” said Fenstermaker, the vice president/assistant general manager for player development and international operations.
“He’s balancing classes and all of that to continue to train and stay on his program. “He’s been on a pretty consistent regimen.”
Leiter, who is majoring in human and organizational development, spent a few days at a draftee mini-camp at the Surprise Recreation Campus in early August after signing for $7,922,000.
He’s not going in cold, but it’s a valuable trip nonetheless.
“He’s going to get a lay of the land,” Fenstermaker said. “He’s mostly just out to get a little bit our program, our education and do an assessment in our lab and let our people get their hands on him a little bit.”
Early fall star
The right-hander allowed only four base runners in five scoreless innings Thursday in his Arizona Fall League debut, striking out five, as the Surprise Saguaros edged the Salt River Rafters 1-0 at Surprise Stadium.
He also pitched at instructs before joining the Saguaros.
“You could make the case that if he continues to perform like this in the Fall League, High A might be a little too low for him,” Fenstermaker said. “My guess is we start him at High A, but the Fall League, that level of talent is commiserate with the upper end of High A if not Double A.”
White is trying to catch up on innings. He broke his hand May 4 in the season opener at Low A Down East after punching the ground out of frustration.
He threw only 35 1/3 innings in the regular season, though he did so with a 3.06 ERA and took a no-hitter into the eighth inning of the season finale.
The Rangers designated him as their primary pitchers for the Fall League so that he can build innings for 2022. The plan is to let him and right-hander Tim Brennan, who broke his arm in May, work without an innings limit.
White was the Rangers’ priority starter for the Fall League, so he will get innings. Brennan could make a few starts but is more likely to pitch multiple innings out of the bullpen.
“We don’t have anything specific in mind, but they both have plenty to play with,” Fenstermaker said.
The highest-ranked is Leiter at No. 26. He didn’t pitch this season, so is nowhere to be found in BA’s league top 10s. At No. 27 on the BA Top 100 is Josh Jung, who is ranked in the top 10 of Triple A West (No. 4) and Double A Central (No. 7).
Right-hander Cole Winn, the Rangers’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year who ranks No. 46 in the top 100, is No. 9 in Double A Central.
The Rangers had two more in the rankings, both at Low A East. First baseman Dustin Harris, the Rangers’ Minor League Player of the Year, is No. 6 and shortstop Luisangel Acuna, the Rangers’ Minor League Defender of the Year, is No. 9 after their performances for Down East.
Harris actually performed better at Hickory (1.073 OPS), but was left out of the High A East rankings. Also not listed in the High A East rankings is second baseman Justin Foscue (1.143 OPS) despite a torrid stretch with Hickory before being promoted to Frisco.
Both players met the qualifications of 120 plate appearances, though barely (Foscue 150, Harris 160).