Texas Rangers' Jack Leiter Off to One of the Worst Starts to Career in MLB History

Jack Leiter was once heralded as one of the top pitching prospects in baseball, but his astronomical ERA through three starts has put him on an unenviable list.
May 14, 2024; Arlington, Texas, USA; Texas Rangers starting pitcher Jack Leiter (35) throws during the first inning against the Cleveland Guardians at Globe Life Field.
May 14, 2024; Arlington, Texas, USA; Texas Rangers starting pitcher Jack Leiter (35) throws during the first inning against the Cleveland Guardians at Globe Life Field. / Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
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The Texas Rangers were probably expecting a bit more out of right-hander Jack Leiter when they finally called the top prospect up to the big leagues last month.

Leiter got the call back on April 16 and made his MLB debut on April 18. After giving up seven earned runs against the Detroit Tigers that afternoon, Leiter got temporarily sent down to the minors before rejoining the Rangers' rotation on May 8.

That game against the Oakland Athletics hardly went any better, as he gave up four earned runs and six total runs in 4.0 innings of work. Leiter's third career start came Tuesday against the Cleveland Guardians, and he wound up allowing six earned runs across just 1.2 innings.

Leiter is currently 0-1 with a 16.39 ERA, 2.571 WHIP and -1.0 WAR.

As noted by Underdog Fantasy's Jayhay, that 16.39 ERA is the third-highest through the first three starts of a pitcher's career since the live ball era began in 1920. Dan Reichert's 20.00 ERA with the Kansas City Royals in 1997 is the worst, while Ed Keegan's 18.00 ERA through three starts with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1959 ranks second.

Leiter was one of the most coveted young players in the 2021 MLB Draft, going No. 2 overall to the Rangers following a blockbuster season at Vanderbilt. Prior to the 2022 campaign, Leiter was ranked as Texas' No. 1 prospect and the No. 17 prospect in all of baseball.

Between 2022 and 2023, Leiter made 42 appearances with Double-A Frisco. He went 5-16 with a 5.32 ERA, 1.480 WHIP and 11.3 strikeouts per nine innings at that level before getting bumped up to Triple-A.

Leiter got shelled in his lone Triple-A start in 2023, but has found more success in Round Rock in 2024. He is 1-1 with a 2.84 ERA, 0.908 WHIP and 13.1 strikeouts per nine innings across three appearances.

That clearly hasn't translated to the big leagues, however, and Leiter's days on the Rangers' active roster may ben numbered.

It remains to be seen if he can eventually become a reliable starter at the MLB level – Reichert lasted just five seasons in the majors, while Keegan tossed a mere 23.0 innings, after all. Leiter has hype and pedigree to spare, though, so this could end up being nothing more than a speed bump on the road towards a successful career.

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Sam Connon


Sam Connon is a Staff Writer for Fastball on the Sports Illustrated/FanNation networks. He previously covered UCLA Athletics for Sports Illustrated/FanNation's All Bruins, 247Sports' Bruin Report Online, Rivals' Bruin Blitz, the Bleav Podcast Network and the Daily Bruin, with his work as a sports columnist receiving awards from the College Media Association and Society of Professional Journalists. Connon also wrote for Sports Illustrated/FanNation's New England Patriots site, Patriots Country, and he was on the Patriots and Boston Red Sox beats at Prime Time Sports Talk.