‘It’s a special place to be.’ Texas Rangers sign top draft pick Jack Leiter

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The Texas Rangers have signed Vanderbilt right-hander Jack Leiter, the second player selected in this year’s MLB Draft, the team announced Wednesday.

The agreement includes a signing bonus of more than $7.9 million, which is just shy of Gerrit Cole’s record of $8 million when he signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2011, according to ESPN MLB Insider Jeff Passan.

“Jack being a perfect fit for our organization, it was a collective effort,” said Rangers executive vice president and general manager Chris Young. “Early on he was the right guy for our franchise. We’re more than excited for this moment today, but it was a collective effort. Everyone shares in the credit here.”

Leiter, the son of two-time All-Star pitcher Al Leiter, went 11-4 with a 2.13 ERA and struck out 179 batters in 110 innings last season for Vanderbilt, which reached the NCAA championship series.

Leiter, 21, was the Rangers’ highest pick since they selected right-handed pitcher Tommy Boggs out of Austin Lanier with the No. 2 pick in 1974. He was also the first college pitcher taken with the Rangers’ top pick since Dillon Tate was selected with fourth overall in 2015.

“Leading up to the draft was most obviously special,” Leiter said. “Lot of it was coming from Chris, he basically said ‘we’re picking you, you can tell me what you want, you’re the guy we want’ and for me and my family that was really special. It’s a special place to be and it was an easy sell. It was a perfect fit for both sides.”

Added Rangers senior director of amateur scouting Kip Fagg, “It was a team effort. Our scouts, front office, in 29 years I haven’t seen as many guys seek one player like they did Jack. He was the guy. It was crystal clear.”

Young said that it doesn’t make sense to pitch Leiter this season. “This is a long-term partnership,” he said. “We’ll sit down with Jack and see what his goals are. With all the innings he had combined with the intensity ... we’ll go into the fall prepping for next year.”

What’s next?

Both parties said Wednesday that Leiter will return to Vanderbilt this fall to take classes and major in Human and Organizational Development with a possible minor in business.

The Rangers and Vanderbilt will coordinate a program to help continue Leiter’s progression on the field.

“We’ll work together to coordinate and in 2022 be ready to go,” Young said. “Education is an important part. I did it. I went back to get my degree, and I know that’s a goal of his.”

Added Leiter, “The Vanderbilt culture is extremely special. They encourage guys after they leave to come back. I am excited to be around guys that have done it a lot longer than me ... David Price, Sonny Gray, Mike Minor.

“They always go back there, and academics is really important. My family stressed that at a young age. As much innings as I threw, it was just a perfect fit [to go back in the fall].”

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