MLB Draft expert: Red Sox would be 'ecstatic' if Jack Leiter fell to them

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By , WEEI 93.7

The buzz is building.

The Red Sox might be on the verge of finding their next star, owning the No. 4 overall pick in Sunday's Major League Baseball Draft. Now the question is who will that player be.

While there are a flurry of solid candidate in the trio of high-level high school shortstops or Louisville catcher Henry Davis, one name continues to pique the interest of Red Sox fans above and beyond everyone else: Jack Leiter.

"I think they would be ecstatic if Jack Leiter got to them," MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo told Brian Brian Barrett on Thursday's Mut at Night show. "It's one of those situations where they don't know for sure. No one knows for sure what's going to happen. They're kind of in a good spot because they can react to whatever happens right above them. I think in a perfect world Leiter would get to them and I don't think he would get past them if he was there."

Leiter, the son of former major leaguer Al Leiter, is coming off a standout season with Vanderbilt. If taken by the Red Sox, the righty pitcher would be another dagger sent the Yankees way considering New York drafted the New Jersey native in the 20th round of the 2019 Draft.

In some corners, Leiter represents the best pitching prospect in the Draft since Casey Mize went to the Tigers with the first overall selection in 2019. The former Auburn star made his major league debut with Detroit in 2020 and is currently a staple in his team's rotation, totaling a 3.59 ERA in 17 starts this season.

So, how does Leiter compare? Mayo says it's not exactly an apples-to-apples comparison.

"The first thing that happens when you have a guy up that high is you nitpick a little," the MLB.com analyst said. "I'll start with the things that detract from Jack Leiter. One, he's not the biggest guy in the world (6-foot-1, 205 pounds). And, two, he doesn't have as much of a track record as a guy like Casey Mize, who did it for a few years in ACC play. Jack Leiter really had just the one college year because he barely pitched in 2020 because of no fault of his own. On the positive side, Mize's overall package of stuff was a little bit better, but Leiter's stuff is plenty good. This isn't a guy who is throwing 90 miles-per-hour. Watching the College World Series, he was throwing 96 (mph) with a four-seamer up in the zone and he gets a lot of swings and misses on his fastball. People don't see it. It moves. It's got high spin. And he has a good breaking ball and a very good changeup. I would just say that Mize's size and track record were just a little bit better, but there is not a whole lot separating the two."

Then there is the notion of how quickly a draftee like Leiter could actually help the Red Sox' big-league team.

"I think he has the aptitude and the desire to get there quickly," Mayo explained. "The only thing that would hold him back is the lack of innings. Now, the plus side of that is his arm is fresher than most. But this is the first time ever in his life he has thrown over 100 innings. I could see a team taking him, whether it was the Red Sox or anybody else, and pumping the brakes just a little bit and giving him two years or a year and a half or whatever it is just so people have expectations. At the same time, he's pretty advanced. I think the adjustment he needs to make is he needs to refine his overall command a little bit. His walk rate wasn't as pinpoint as you would like for a guy who has a reputation for that. But given the Red Sox are in a rare situation where they are picking that high but hope to be good again pretty quickly, if you told me say a year from now they are competing and they want to bring Jack Leiter up to help out the bullpen down the stretch just to get his feet wet, like, say the Rays did with David Price, I could see that."