The Future is Unwritten: Mark Leiter Jr.
Mark Leiter Jr. garners more interest than your typical 22nd round pick from the New Jersey Institute of Technology typically does. He has pedigree (his father and his uncle Al were big leaguers for parts of nearly 30 seasons combined), he’s put up good numbers (a 1.20 ERA and 50 strikeouts in 45 innings of work last year and good peripherals so far this year) and once struck out 20 hitters in a college game, so he’s worth a look and a read.
At an even 6’, 195lbs, the baby-faced Leiter is three inches shorter than his dad, has no physical projection remaining and already has a bit of a gut on him. The little extra weight hasn’t robbed Leiter of his athleticism as he repeats his over-the-top delivery just fine and throws a fair amount of strikes. The arm angle helps Leiter get the fastball downhill despite his (lack of) height but there are times when he doesn’t get on top of the ball and the pitch will come in up in the zone. There’s not enough heat here to get away with that at upper levels, as Leiter’s fastball is just fringe-average, sitting 87-89mph and topping out at 90. He’ll have to be very fine with his command down in the zone if he’s going to get past Double-A, especially in Reading where mistakes like the ones he made too often when Corinne Landrey and I went to see him. The control is ahead of the command right now, and I think it stays that way with a 55/45 projection.
Leiter has a bandolero of secondary pitches; changeup, splitter, curveball, slider, cutter. He’s changeup/split heavy with the change coming in 76-78mph and the split in the low 80s. I like the change more and think it has a chance to get to solid-average and get a good bit of ground balls at maturity. The split flashes, and he certainly has the arm slot conducive of it, and I think it’s a future 45 pitch. The cutter and slider run together at 82 to 86mph and are both grade-40 offering that I don’t expect much growth from. The cutter has a chance if he can command it with impunity. The curveball is a lollypop eephus at 69mph. Maybe it’s worth a surprise strike or two thrown early in the count, just to catch hitters off guard. Nothing more.
So let’s quickly recap the future grades because all of those pitches is a lot to digest.
50 Fastball that’ll play below that if he leaves it up.
At age 23, Leiter is very old for Low-A. Only one pitcher age 23 or older in the SALLY League so far this year has thrown more innings than Leiter’s 42 IP. For me, Leiter’s an org arm the likes of which we’ve seen in Drew Carpenter or Pat Misch, who eats innings through the minors until a spot start or three is thrown his way in his mid to upper-20s. If the fastball plays up out of the bullpen, maybe he has a chance to have a similar career track as a reliever. Not bad for a 22nd round pick, but any hullabuloo brought about by two months of good statistics and his last name is just that.