Lost on Tuesday in Jon Daniels’ not-so-upbeat assessment of the Texas Rangers’ chances in 2018 was the Baseball America unveiling of the organization’s top 10 prospects, and center fielder Leody Taveras actually wasn’t ranked No. 1.
That honor went to 23-year-old Willie Calhoun, the hitting specialist and left-field novice acquired in the Yu Darvish trade who could find his way into the Rangers’ lineup on Opening Day. (With left-hander Dallas Keuchel the presumed starter March 29 for the Houston Astros, the lefty-hitting Calhoun might be on the bench if he makes the team.)
BA loves Calhoun’s bat, calling him “one of the most talented hitting prospects in the game.” They know his defense is a weakness but believe his bat makes him ready to be an everyday big-leaguer.
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That ranking belongs to the 19-year-old Taveras, rated No. 2 by BA after his first full professional season at Low A Hickory in which he batted .249 with eight homers, 50 RBIs, 20 doubles and 20 steals over 134 games.
Here is the top 10:
1. Willie Calhoun, OF
2. Leody Taveras, OF
3. Hans Crouse, RHP
4. Cole Ragans, LHP
5. Yohander Mendez, LHP
6. Ronald Guzman, 1B
7. Kyle Cody, RHP
8. Miguel Aparicio, OF
9. Bubba Thompson, OF
10. Chris Seise, SS
Calhoun and Taveras — as well as Guzman, Cody and Seise — are taking part in the Rangers’ annual winter camp. They participated in the early-December camp for select young players, and the reporters caught up with Calhoun then after getting three weeks’ worth of him at the end of 2017.
Taveras, though, exited as the reporters entered, a veteran move even if done unintentionally. He didn’t get away Tuesday, at least not from the Star-Telegram.
Though he doesn’t speak much English, he didn’t need Eleno Ornelas to translate the word “pressure.” Taveras, cousin of former big-league Willy Taveras, knows what is expected of him, and doesn’t seem fazed by it.
Here’s an interview with the 19-year-old switch-hitting phenom, who was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2015 for $2.1 million.
What do you think about being considered the Rangers’ top prospect?
I’m proud of it. I feel good, and I just try to work out and do the best I can.
Is there pressure?
Ah. You understood that word.
What do you think is your No. 1 strength?
Defense. I feel comfortable. My speed and my defense are the top things when they look at me.
For an 19-year-old, you are said to have advanced instincts on the field. Where does that come from?
I’ve had many conversations with my cousin Willy. He would talk about instincts, and my preparation is what I learned from him.
You will likely start 2018 in High A. Is it difficult to stay patient on your way through the system?
I don’t get anxious. I try to stay focused and do the best that I can.
Last season was your first full season. What is the No. 1 lesson you took away from it?
Health is one of the main things. I have to stay healthy, and also the job I do hitting. Hitting-wise it was different. You have to make a lot of adjustments during the course of a long season. That’s what I take away from last season.