DALLAS - The Texas Rangers have built their farm system through investments in the International market and high upside draft picks. Texas prefers athletic players with loud tools as an organizational philosophy. Through the years, the Rangers have had a reputation for finding and developing sluggers, especially from Latin America, while struggling to develop starting pitching.
Though the system has been plundered recently through trades to help the big league club, the Rangers still have several enticing prospects we will be featuring through the coming days.
At last we’ve arrived at the prospect with the highest ceiling in the Rangers farm system: Leody Taveras. The center fielder out of the Dominican Republic signed with Texas in 2015 and played his first year of pro ball at just 17 years of age last season.
Taveras doesn’t have one loud generational tool like Joey Gallo’s power or Jurickson Profar’s smile. Instead, every part of his game is above average, or at worst, average. The switch hitter has good speed, great defensive instincts, and a strong enough arm to play anywhere in the outfield. He profiles as an exemplary center fielder, looking as though he was born to play the position.
For such a young player, Taveras’ plate discipline and pitch recognition are far more advanced than players his age should be. At his peak, Taveras profiles as a .300 hitter with good on base percentage to boot. His weak point offensively is his power numbers.
In 73 games last year, Taveras hit just one home run. What power Taveras has right now is more gap-to-gap which translates to becoming a doubles and triples threat rather than a home run hitter. As a center fielder, power isn’t required, it’s just a cherry on the Sunday.
However, Taveras is still young and hasn’t filled out his frame yet, so he’s still got plenty of room for growth. When he’s all grown up, Taveras projects to hit around 15 homers, maybe 20+ if things go really well as the youngster is known to flash power potential in batting practice sessions.
Taveras spent time at three different levels in 2016. He started the season with 11 games in the Dominican Summer League where he lit pitchers up. Taveras hit .387/.467/.538 in those games with six walks to five strikeouts. His next stop was in the Arizona Rookie League for 33 games, where he spent the most time in his age 17 season.
At his first stop in stateside baseball, Taveras performed well. Offensively, he put up a .328 OBP and stole 11 bags in 15 attempts. With Spokane in a pennant chase, they called up the reinforcements in the form of Taveras where he played 29 games and was four years younger than the average player in the Northwest League.
Pitching in the Northwest League proved a difficult challenge for Taveras. In his time with Spokane, he had a .563 OPS with slugging and on base percentages under .300. Despite only getting his feet wet, Taveras was still named the No. 1 prospect in the Northwest League by Baseball America for the 2016 season.
Short season ball is an aggressive assignment for a prospect in their first season of pro ball, but the Rangers have a history of being aggressive with their prospects in where they assign them. Given Taveras’ age, the most optimistic projections would have Leody finishing the season in High A. A more likely outcome would be him spending the entire season in Low A Hickory, which is still highly advanced for an 18-year-old.
In a farm system without the future MLB studs to dream on that we've grown accustomed to, Leody Taveras leads the pack in terms of his ceiling. He may be just a kid now, but his name is definitely one to tuck away and store for the future where he projects to be a star.
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