After Impressive Debut, Leody Taveras is Aiming for a Permanent Spot in Arlington Next Season
ARLINGTON, Texas — Texas Rangers centerfield prospect Leody Taveras entered Spring Training in February with no chance of making the Major League roster. Now as the 2020 season winds down, he may be the leading candidate for the Opening Day centerfielder in 2021.
Consistent with just about everything else in 2020, a series of odd circumstances afforded several young players in the Rangers organization the opportunity to get their first taste of the big leagues. Most of these younger players had never played above the Single-A level. Taveras was not far ahead of those players, playing only 65 games at Double-A Frisco prior to 2020.
Taveras impressed Rangers' management at Spring Training 2.0 with his polished defense and vastly improved mechanics at the plate, earning a spot on the expanded 30-man roster on Opening Day. After only one appearance as a defensive replacement, Taveras was optioned to the Alternate Training Site. He finally got another opportunity when the Rangers fell out of contention in late August. Since August 24, Taveras has consistently been the Rangers' everyday centerfielder.
“I was just focused a lot on just coming out and giving everything I’ve got (and) everything that I’m being taught," Taveras told the media through an interpreter on Thursday. "Giving it 150 percent."
Shin-Soo Choo played a vital role in Taveras' first taste of the big leagues. Taveras said the 38-year-old veteran took him under his wing and helped him with his approach as a Major League hitter—an area where Choo has 16 years of wisdom to share. Taveras knew if he was going to make the large jump from Double-A to the big leagues, he was going to have to be proactive in approaching the veteran players.
“I approached Choo, knowing that he's a veteran," Taveras said. "Choo’s gone out of his way and done a lot of things as far as helping me out, grabbing me an iPad and things that I can get to start watching videos and stuff like that to help me out.”
After a slow start, Choo had been one of the more consistent veterans on the Rangers in 2020. However, he has been sidelined since he sprained his right hand sliding into home plate against the Seattle Mariners on September 7.
At the young age of 22, Taveras is still learning the art of being a leadoff hitter in the big leagues. One of Taveras' strongest attributes is his elite speed, and it has helped him steal six bases in 30 games this season. Learning how to bunt consistently is something he is planning to focus on improving this winter.
"I just want to be well-rounded," Taveras said. "Bunting is another weapon I need to add to my arsenal. Anything I can do to get on base and produce runs, that’s what I need to do."
Taveras plans to play winter ball in the Dominican Republic over the offseason in preparation for a spring where he hopes to build off a rather impressive debut in 2020, given the circumstances.
Taveras has several things to prove when the team reports to Surprise, Az. next spring. More than anything, he hopes to prove that his time in the minor leagues is over.
"I hope so," Taveras said with a laugh. "(I just want) to respect the game, to come out and work 150 percent like I always have been, and give it everything I've got."