ESPN draft expert sees ‘increasing chance’ of Jack Leiter falling to Red Sox at No. 4

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The MLB Draft begins in two weeks with the Red Sox slated to pick fourth behind the Pirates, Rangers and Tigers. Many have linked the Red Sox to Vanderbilt ace Jack Leiter, who delivered another gem Monday in what will likely be his final collegiate appearance (6 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 3 BB, 1 HBP, 8 Ks over 107 pitches in a win over Mississippi State). Leiter, son of former MLB All-Star Al Leiter, has enjoyed a superb sophomore season for the Commodores (who find themselves on the doorstep of a second straight College World Series title), leading the nation with 179 strikeouts.

The hard-throwing right-hander won’t have to wait long to hear his name called on draft night. In fact, many scouts consider him the top pitcher available, though teammate Kumar Rocker presents an equally compelling case. The question is whether or not Leiter will be spoken for by the time Boston steps to the podium at fourth overall. While draft expert Kiley McDaniel acknowledges Leiter could be of interest to both Texas and Detroit (who pick second and third, respectively), he feels the 21-year-old New Jersey native still stands a reasonable chance of falling to Boston at No. 4.

“They will get a shot at at least one of the four prep shortstops, with Marcelo Mayer and Kahlil Watson fitting best,” wrote McDaniel in Tuesday’s draft primer for ESPN. “An increasing chance Jack Leiter gets to them would be ideal to address a need and quickly boost the big-league club.”

This year’s class is loaded with shortstop talent, though the Red Sox already have a pretty good one in two-time All-Star Xander Bogaerts and just used a 2020 first-rounder on Nick Yorke, an esteemed prep shortstop looking to transition to second base at the professional level. McDaniel, who mocked Leiter to the Red Sox earlier this month, pinpoints starting pitching as Boston’s biggest “system need” heading into the draft.

The draft, which has been shortened from its usual 40 rounds to only 20 this year due to the COVID pandemic, begins Sunday, July 11th in Denver (where All-Star festivities will be held simultaneously) and runs through the 13th.

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