Vanderbilt pitcher Jack Leiter had one of the best seasons in program history. And on Sunday, he was rewarded for it when the Texas Rangers picked him with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2021 MLB Draft.
Leiter is the seventh player in school history to be drafted in the top five, and he’s the 11th Commodore to be drafted in the top 10 under Tim Corbin. He’s also the fifth Vanderbilt player to be drafted by the Rangers and first since Xavier Turner and Tyler Ferguson in 2015.
“He became an immediate winner,” Corbin said Sunday during the MLB Draft broadcast. “There was lot of hype about him coming to school and I tried to downplay that a little bit because he’d never pitched in the SEC before. But ... he came in and he was very comfortable.”
The 21-year-old righty is widely considered to have the best stuff of any pitcher in the class. His fastball that sits in the mid-90s and has reached 97 miles per house and induces a lot of swing-and-miss strikeouts. He also has a dangerously deceptive 12-6 curveball, a slider and a newly developed cutter.
During his two-season VU career, Leiter posted a 13-4 record with a 2.08 ERA, 201 strikeouts and 53 hits allowed in 125.2 innings pitched. He tied teammate Kumar Rocker for the NCAA lead in strikeouts (179) this season, and ranked third in hits allowed per nine innings (3.93), fourth in strikeouts per nine innings (14.6), seventh in WHIP (0.85) and 20th in ERA (2.13).
“He’s obviously a refined pitcher with his command,” Corbin said. “He throws four distinct pitches. [With his power fastball], he really gets over that front side, and you can tell that ball explodes once it gets into the zone. He’s got really strong legs and he uses [them] well.
“He attacks; he’s coming after you. He’s a puncher and I think that’s the best thing you can say about him. He really throws through the ball … He’s more than just a fastball pitcher — that’s a plus-plus pitch.”
Leiter was a unanimous first-team All-American, a first-team All-SEC selection, the SEC Newcomer of the Year and an SEC All-Newcomer team selection while being named a finalist for the Dick Howser Trophy and Golden Spikes Award.
In his first career SEC start, Leiter had a 16-strikeout no-hitter against South Carolina on March 20 — the first regular season no-hitter for a Vandy pitcher since 1971. He followed that up with seven no-hit innings against Missouri in his next start before leaving with a high pitch count.
Leiter was previously drafted by the New York Yankees in the 20th round of the 2019 draft but chose to attend Vanderbilt instead.
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