Texas Rangers

The No. 2 player in our Rangers Prospect countdown is ‘pretty good for a 19-year-old’

Leody Taveras continues to be considered the Rangers’ top position-player prospect even though he struggled for much of his age-19 season at High A Down East.
Leody Taveras continues to be considered the Rangers’ top position-player prospect even though he struggled for much of his age-19 season at High A Down East. Down East Wood Ducks

At some point every MLB organization is accused of rushing a player through the farm systems to the major leagues.

Not every player is Mike Trout, Ronald Acuna Jr. or Juan Soto.

The Texas Rangers are no different. They like to push their best young players as their play merits, and they have.

Sometimes, players keep pace, like a 20-year-old Elvis Andrus did in 2009 when named the Rangers’ starting shortstop. Sometimes, players experience a hiccup along the way.

But that doesn’t mean they still aren’t talented or that their teams no longer hold them in high regard. The Rangers still love the No. 2 player in the Star-Telegram’s ranking of the top 10 Rangers prospects.

No. 2: CF Leody Taveras

Born: Sept. 8, 1998

Height: 6-foot-1. Weight: 170 pounds.

How acquired: International free agent, 2015

The average age of the 2018 Down East Wood Ducks players at the end of the season was 23 years old.

The extreme high was Brett Eibner, a former MLB outfielder who is converting to pitching at 28 years old. The extreme low was Leody Taveras, who, at 19 the entire season, was the youngest of the Wood Ducks and the third-youngest player in the Carolina League to open the season.

It’s been that way for all of Taveras’ career, and for the most part he has handled the duties well. But for the first time he encountered some difficulties this season, at least offensively.

The trials, though, served only as a tapping of the brakes rather than slamming on them. Taveras remains a potential five-tool major-leaguer who is a defensive whiz but whose bat lagged behind for much of the season.

“I’m definitely not going to say great or that we’re disappointed either way,” assistant general manager Jayce Tingler said. “High A at 19, a tough league, I like the way he finished, good defense all year. That part comes naturally. He’s still working on some things offensively.”

Taveras’ numbers didn’t decline dramatically from his 2017 at Low A Hickory. He finished with a .246/.312/.332 slash line and with 51 walks to 96 strikeouts in 132 games. The biggest difference from 2017 was a 28 point drop in slugging percentage.

He went through a midseason swoon in which he batted only .186 in July. His slugging percentage in June and July were both below .300.

Taveras closed out the season batting .275 over his final 31 games with seven of his 28 extra-base hits.

So, not all of his 2018 was a loss.

“I was happy with the management of the zone,” Tingler said. “For the most part this year he ran into a funk, but he was basically 2-1 all year on the K-to-walk. He’s got to continue to get stronger and continue to develop his swing from both sides. It’s hard not to like this guy. It’s a work-in-progress, but he’s pretty good for a 19-year-old.”

The season could serve Taveras well in the off-season. He learned what he needs to improve and was acting on it late in the season.

He will likely begin next season back in High East but is expected to jump to Double A Frisco at some point with talented center fielders Bubba Thompson and Julio Pablo Martinez coming behind him.

The Rangers are still bullish on Taveras despite what general manager Jon Daniels called “a mixed season.”

“He’s really advanced defensively,” Daniels said. “Probably not as consistent offensively as I would have expected in spring training. But he’s 19 in a league of 21-, 22- and 23-year-olds. I’d expect you’ll see a lot of growth this off-season and a better performance next season.”

Star-Telegram Top 10 Rangers prospects

No. 10: Cole Ragans

No. 9: Tyler Phillips

No. 8: Joe Palumbo

No. 7: Taylor Hearn

No. 6: Jonathan Hernandez

No. 5: Cole Winn

No. 4: Bubba Thompson

No. 3: Julio Pablo Martinez

No. 2: Leody Taveras

No. 1: Friday

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