MLB Draft 2021: N.J.’s Jack Leiter, son of ex-Yankees, Mets pitcher Al Leiter, not No. 1 prospect, ESPN insider says

Some of baseball’s top draft analysts are agreeing to disagree.

Last week, The Athletic’s Keith Law released his latest list of the top 50 prospects in the 2021 MLB Draft, and sitting at No. 1 was Vanderbilt right-hander Jack Leiter. And why not? The son of former New York Yankees and New York Mets southpaw Al Leiter, Jack Leiter is 7-0 with a 0.98 ERA and 94 strikeouts in 55.1 innings pitched this season.

However on Monday, ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel posted his list ranking the top 100 prospects. He had Leiter, the Summit, N.J. native who played high school ball for the Delbarton School in Morristown, as No. 2 overall, behind high school shortstop Jordan Lawlar.

Leiter has an elite, mid-90s fastball that’s a plus-plus pitch and a curveball that’s slightly ahead of his slider, but both can be used to put away hitters, and he has the pitchability to help him post what are frankly some totally goofy numbers this year in his first extended exposure to SEC hitters: 55.1 IP, 17 H, 22 BB, 94 K’s, 0.98 ERA. The only light negatives here are he’s only 6-foot-1, there isn’t a 70-grade off-speed pitch, and pitchers get hurt much more often than position players. Pittsburgh at 1-1 seems inclined to chase upside — and show patience in a longer full-reset-style rebuild — so Leiter’s shorter timetable doesn’t perfectly fit that plan, but neither does Ke’Bryan Hayes already being good for the Pirates in the big leagues, so that’s more of a tiebreaker than anything else.

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The Pittsburgh Pirates will get the first chance to call Leiter’s name when the draft begins on July 11.

This will be Leiter’s second turn in the draft. The Yankees selected him in the 20th round of the 2019 MLB Draft, even though he was set on attending Vanderbilt.

Damon Oppenheimer, the Yankees’ vice president of domestic amateur scouting, explained what New York was thinking when it picked Leiter. Per’s Mark Feinsand:

“In the 20th round, Jack was obviously the best player on the board. I know his deep commitment to Vanderbilt, but there’s always a percentage chance that something could happen. As minute as it is, it’s there. Vanderbilt is the most likely scenario, though. At that point, it becomes a balancing act. You know you’re probably not going to be able to get him signed in those rounds, so why use the pick? In the 20th round, I’m weighing my odds there; that less-than-1% chance or those relationships, they’re worth it at that point. Jack is going to be a Draft-eligible sophomore in two years, and the idea that the Yankees will have been a big part of his graduating from high school and moving on, it could help us out with information at that point, access to him at that point, stuff like that. There’s a time where there are relationships that are built through some of this.”

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