DALLAS — One thing that rings true throughout the course of Jon Daniels’ tenure as GM in Texas is a love of talent up the middle on defense. This applies to the infield and center field, but recently the Rangers haven’t had much luck developing a promising center fielder. The trading of Lewis Brinson in the Jonathan Lucroy deal of 2016 set the Rangers’ outfield of the future timeline back a couple of years.
Over the last couple of seasons, opportunities to make a financial commitment to free agent center fielders have come and gone and, despite investing in having No. 7 Bubba Thompson and No. 4 Julio Pablo Martinez newly on the farm at the position, it has been clear that the Rangers seem to be biding their time for the eventual arrival of our #2 prospect, Leody Taveras.
Name: Leody Taveras
Height/Weight: 6’1” 170 lbs
How he got here: J2 Signing as a 16-year old in 2015 out of the Dominican Republic thanks to a $2.1 million signing bonus
What he does well: Pretty much everything.
Ranked at #46 in all of baseball by Baseball America in their midseason rankings, the 19-year old (turns 20 in about a month) Dominican is a switch hitting, quick running and good throwing kid who has a legitimate chance to be a 5-tool player as he develops more strength with age.
At 6’1” 170 lbs, Taveras doesn't exactly look intimidating off the bus but he has a great feel for the game and uses all fields from the plate – and hits well from both sides. Throughout the course of his minor league career his strikeout rate has been a little high. This may sound like a broken record among Rangers prospects, but he needs to get his contact rate up a tad unless he plans on drastically increasing his power numbers – which isn’t totally out of the question.
The prevailing thought among evaluators is that we will see his power numbers bump up some and his contact rate in general bump up some, leading to a decrease in his strikeouts as he sprays the ball all over the field.
Taveras is currently going through some growing pains and a definite learning curve this year at High-A but that’s to be expected for someone who is 3.5 years younger than the average player in his league. Earlier this summer, Taveras was rewarded for his season with a trip to DC to participate in the MLB All-Star Futures Game.
A repeat trip to High-A Down East to build confidence wouldn’t be out of the question for a 20-year old Taveras in 2019, but assuming he has consistent success over the next half a season or so at the High-A level, it’s likely Rangers fans in North Texas will get to see Taveras in person sometime in 2019 playing AA ball in Frisco.
Optimistically, and apparently according to the Rangers plan, you could see Leody roving the green (hopefully natural) grass of the new Rangers stadium sometime earlier during the first couple of seasons in the new digs in Arlington as a potential top of the order hitter who brings elite defense to a premium position.
Up Next: No. 1 - Willie Calhoun, OF
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Is 2019 a make or break season for Leody Taveras to begin turning his skills into production or will the Rangers continue to be patient? Make your predictions with Chris on Twitter @realchrisroland.