The Prospect Times’ #3 prospect Jack Leiter and the Frisco RoughRiders returned to the field Thursday night against Diamondbacks top prospect (and fellow 2021 draftee) Jordan Lawlar and the Amarillo Sod Poodles. The RoughRiders rolled to a 12-4 victory thanks in large part to a six run 4th inning, and 3 RBI from Rangers #1 prospect Evan Carter.
Leiter was roughed up in 2022. In his first season playing pro ball, he sported a 5.54 ERA along with a 5.02 FIP. His biggest flaw last season was command, which earned him 5.44 BB/9 in 2022. In college, his stuff was good enough to overpower hitters and miss barrels even with spotty command, but in his rookie year that was not the case. Even still, his slider showed improvement and the 22 year-old still has mounds of potential.
Leiter found himself behind in the count to many hitters last night, inflating his pitch count as a result. He had trouble spotting his off-speed pitches, with most of them either winding up hanging in the zone, or too far away from the plate for hitters to consider chasing. Leiter only forced eight swings and misses in 4.1 IP. His release point was wildly inconsistent, which greatly contributed to his struggles to spot his breaking stuff. Too often he found himself releasing the ball too late and spiking it into the dirt, or not being able to get on top of the ball and sailing it as a result. For Leiter, it all comes down to confidence and consistency.
The first of the duo of two-run homers given up by Leiter came in the 3rd inning. Sod Poodles second baseman Ryan Bliss blooped a hanging curveball off the end of the bat for a single, bringing up Dallas, TX native Jordan Lawlar. Leiter fell behind in the count 2-1, and on the next pitch Lawlar smashed a hanging slider over the wall in left field.
The other homer came in the following inning. After a runner reached on a walk, Leiter missed his spot and threw a fastball down the middle that catcher Adrian Del Castillo hammered over the center field fence for another two-run shot.
If you’re searching for a silver lining here, Leiter was able to bounce back from both homers. They each came with one out in the inning, and both times Leiter was able to retire the next two batters to end the inning.
Overall, Leiter’s return to the mound was a tad disappointing. The struggles that tarnished his 2022 campaign were still prevalent in his first start of the season, but it was far from a disastrous outing. His fastball still had lots of life to it, and he was able to jam hitters thanks to its velocity and rising action.
Jack Leiter did not earn a decision in his first outing, he tossed 4.1 innings, threw 79 pitches for 44 strikes, striking out five while walking three and surrendering four runs which were all earned.
The RoughRiders are back in action tonight, with Rangers #2 prospect Owen White on the mound. Can’t wait to see how he performs!