With the selection of Jack Leiter, the long road back to the Rangers to respectability has become shorter | Sports


Because anything can go wrong and usually happens in the MLB Draft, and not just if the Rangers are on the clock, anything that says here should probably be marked with an asterisk.

Now that the legal master key is in place, two things:

The Rangers have just picked their best first-round pitcher since Kevin Brown in 1986.

Their long road back to respectability has just been shortened.

From there they can even see where they are going.

“Our goal,” said Chris Young, managing director, “is for Jack Leiter to help us win championships.”

Let’s just say there’s a lot of work to be done, but Leiter at least answers the thorny question of when Jon Daniels will draft a foolproof pitcher at the top of the spin. It’s also proof that they weren’t kidding when they hinted you might get the bag off your head in 2023.

Leiter – the most dynamic pitcher in the draft, one compared to Los Angeles Dodgers ace Walker Buehler, only with better stuff – could be sitting in the Rangers rotation next summer. The only reason he might not be at the top in 23 is if the Rangers sign, say, Noah Syndergaard, that of Mansfield.

Leiter’s star potential simply makes Arlington a more attractive destination for free agents of all types, helping to rehabilitate the Rangers’ reputation.

Also help with the guys who are already there.

“Certainly we wouldn’t have drafted him this high if we weren’t infatuated with this talent,” said Young. “We certainly recognize how special he is as a baseball player. But, just as important, the person too. He makes the other players around him better. He elevates his team.

“To me, that’s what the Championship teams have, and that’s what we’re looking forward to with Jack in time.”

Even though Young raves about the intangibles, including the pedigree of a father who pitched 19 years in the big leagues and played for three championship teams, Kip Fagg, the scouting director, called the fastball a Leiter of the best he has ever spotted. No, not the fastest. The best. Alive and explosive. Young, who made a living not too long ago as a good pitcher himself, also raved about Leiter’s side tricks, including a change he hardly used.

Frankly, I can’t remember the last time the Rangers were so stunned talking about their top pick. Might Be Young, still new to his role in the organization, did not receive the memo. Daniels hates the hype since the media created a phenomenon known as DVDs in the first decade of this century. John Danks was a nice rotating piece for the White Sox and Edinson Volquez made an all-star team for the Reds. The best thing any of the three did for Rangers was Volquez’s return with Josh Hamilton.

Here’s the thing about Leiter: he’s better than Danks or Volquez or RA Dickey or Rick Helling or Luis Ortiz or Chi Chi Gonzalez. Doesn’t sound like much, I know. Leiter should be better, right? Second pick in the draft, for shouting out loud.

Likewise, Dillon Tate was the fourth pick in 2015, and look how it turned out. The Rangers didn’t do enough homework on Tate, exchanged for a bag of bullets. They also didn’t do a good enough background check on Matt Purke. He didn’t even sign in 2009.

Young virtually guaranteed the Rangers pick wouldn’t be a failure this time around.

“Knowing who Jack is and what he does and certainly what we are,” Young said, “it’s a perfect situation.

“I am very confident. There is a trade side, but I think we can fix it.

The fact that Leiter appeared in a Rangers jersey for his interview with MLB Network should be taken as a good sign. If he’s playing hardball, that’s not good.

As for all those high school shortstops projected for the top of the draft, well, too bad for the false draft.

Tribute to the Jesuit Jordan Lawlar, taken at No. 6 by Arizona. Now that could be a difficult sign. Lawlar, 19, has indicated he is thinking of Vanderbilt, which could be an interesting option given he would be draft-eligible after his sophomore year.

No matter what Lawlar does, by the time he’s ready for the big leagues, Leiter will be a regular at Globe Life Field. His talent pretty much dictates it. Afraid he might get hurt? You should be. Over 500 MLB pitchers have been operated by Tommy John.

But Leiter has only started 22 games at Vanderbilt, which means there isn’t much wear and tear. He didn’t start out as a pitcher either. Overuse in youth leagues is the biggest predictor of elbow problems later on. It is also difficult for me to imagine that Al Leiter did not protect his son from coaches and situations that could jeopardize his career.

All things considered, I have no problem with what the Rangers did on Sunday, a move made possible by everything they’ve done wrong in recent years. Maybe they’ve finally turned a corner.

© 2021 The Dallas Morning News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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