Detroit Tigers MLB Draft Player Profile: Vanderbilt RHP Jack Leiter
MLB Draft Month rolls on at Motor City Bengals–this time, examining the consensus top arm in the entire draft class: Vanderbilt right-handed pitcher Jack Leiter. We all know Detroit’s affection toward high octane starting pitchers–so much so that colleague Kellen picked up Leiter for the Detroit Tigers in the MCB Mock Draft.
Detroit Tigers potential draft pick Jack Leiter Background
It wouldn’t be a true draft profile unless we talked bloodlines–Jack certainly has them. Jack’s father, Al, was a second-round pick by the Yankees in 1984 and amassed a 19-year big league career with the Yankees, Blue Jays, Marlins, and Mets. 40 bWAR, 3.80 career ERA, and two all-star appearances. Jack’s uncle, Mark, also pitched in the big leagues as did Jack’s cousin Mark Jr, who coincidentally happens to be in the Detroit Tigers system. But that was then and this is Jack. For every all-star with bloodlines, there is a son or cousin who didn’t make the show at all. Nevertheless, it is worth noting.
A draft-eligible sophomore, this would be Leiter’s second go-round with the draft. He had been selected by the New York Yankees in 2019 out of high school in the 20th round. The Yankees were well aware of Leiter’s commitment to Vanderbilt. The gamble for the flame-throwing righty paid off and he has now positioned himself for a payday well into seven figures.
At Jack’s high school in New Jersey, he was honored as the Gatorade Player of the Year in 2019 and earned the All-American distinction from both Under Armour and Perfect Game, per Vanderbilt’s athletic website.
Jack Leiter Scouting Report
Leiter is one of the more polished pitchers in the draft; with four legitimate and usable offerings to get hitters out. His heater shows riding life and flirts with triple digits at times. His slider has taken significant strides since his high school days. It showed below-average attributes in the prep video I had seen some time ago. Today, it’s fringe or maybe even average—a potential weapon in his arsenal.
I still like the curveball the most with its 11/5 movement with tight rotation. He leverages the change up frequently against opposite-sided hitters. It may be the least of his secondaries but it’s no slouch of a pitch, either. Personally, the only risk with Leiter I see is his lack of prototypical starter size. It’s not totally impossible for Leiter to make it and be fine as a starter with his current frame, but any time there is that much velocity coming from a non-workhorse frame, durability concerns do creep into the back of one’s mind.
Additionally, it is fair to question how much better Leiter can be. He likely has reached much of his physical projection and may even see a smidge of regression with his fastball velocity between now and when he reaches the majors, so it’ll be important for evaluators to understand his timeline to the big leagues and if his stuff still plays even at 95-96. Comps are a paradox for me, but the one I gave a while ago to a friend was Zack Greinke.
Will the Detroit Tigers Draft Jack Leiter?
Jack Leiter would be a valued selection for the Detroit Tigers with the third pick. Leiter is undoubtedly a top-five talent, but where he ends up ultimately is yet to be determined. High school shortstops Marcelo Mayer and Jordan Lawlar continue to receive buzz at the top, but Texas is likely the only competition for Leiter’s services before he finds Detroit’s spot.
Leiter seemed to be a lock for the Tigers at one point if he made it to them, but MLB Pipelines has been releasing some smoke about the Detroit Tigers and prep arm Jackson Jobe in their most recent mock draft, even with Leiter still remaining on the board for their pick. If Leiter makes it Detroit’s way, it will likely boil down to the financials and what the Detroit Tigers intend to do with their bonus pool at picks 32 and 39.