"This kid has a drive inside of him that you can't teach," Texas Rangers manager Chris Woodward says of Leody Taveras. "That's what makes me sleep well at night knowing I can give this kid as much leash as possible to succeed."
As spring training rolls on in Surprise, Ariz., we're giving Rangers fans another series to take you deeper into camp. ... including in centerfield.
With the health and safety protocols put in place to help curb the spread of COVID-19, the Rangers are taking advantage of the limited number of people allowed in camp by inviting several of their top prospects to participate.
We want to help you get a closer look at the future of the Texas Rangers by doing a series of prospect profiles throughout spring training. To start, we'll ease you in with a prospect you had a chance to see last season, since his rookie status is still intact.
Leody Taveras | CF
Born: September 8, 1998
Bats: S Throws: R
Height: 6'1" Weight: 171
Drafted: Signed in 2015, Dominican Republic
Team: Texas Rangers (MLB)
MLB Pipeline (No. 4 Rangers prospect, 2020)
Hit: 55 | Power: 40 | Run: 60 | Arm: 55 | Field: 65
Baseball America (No. 3 Rangers prospect, 2021)
Hit: 50 | Power: 40 | Run: 70 | Arm: 60 | Field: 60
Leody Taveras was signed out of Tenares, Dominican Republic, on July 2, 2015. His signing bonus of $2.1 million was below that of Vladimir Guerrero Jr.'s $3.9 million and above Juan Soto's $1.5 million, making him one of the more sought after prospects during the J2 period in 2015.
Taveras, 22, turned many heads in the organization with a stellar performance during Spring Training 2.0 in 2020, earning him one of the final spots on the Opening Day 30-man roster. He was optioned shortly after, but was called up in late-August and took over the everyday spot in centerfield for the remainder of the season. Taveras played 33 games for the Rangers in 2020 with limited exposure in Double-A Frisco and no experience at the Triple-A level.
Leody Taveras has always been known for his speed and athleticism. Early in his career, his bat speed allowed him to be an effective hitter for average at the lower levels of the minor leagues. Furthermore, his propensity for getting on base early in his career allowed him to soar in prospect rankings across baseball.
Perhaps his biggest strength lies in is his defense. He patrols center field using his speed and range, along with a quick first step, to glide to the ball with ease. He also possesses a plus arm, making him an elite defender at a premium defensive position.
Offensively, Taveras possesses exceptional bat-to-ball skills. His most notable improvements have come with a jump in maturity regarding his approach at the plate, along with some mechanical adjustments — most notably, keeping his front side closed — to help him have a cleaner path to the ball.
His biggest weakness is his bat. While Taveras hit for a modest average in the upper levels of the minors, his power has yet to come to fruition. A lack of extra base hits has kept Taveras from the upper tier of prospects in baseball.
Despite the improved mechanics at the plate, Taveras struck out more than expected in 2020. He was very aggressive with pitches in the strike zone last year, but missed too many of them.
Until Taveras can consistently make contact and drive the ball, it will remain the biggest hurdle for him to become an impact player in the major leagues.
The Rangers expect Leody Taveras to be their Opening Day centerfielder in 2021. He showed enough at the major league level last year that the club is ready for him to be the guy moving forward.
However, he will not simply be handed the job. The Rangers brought back Delino DeShields Jr. on a minor league deal with the intention for him to compete with Taveras in camp. ...
But Taveras has drive.
Promo photo: Kelly Gavin / Courtesy of the Texas Rangers
READ MORE: Rangers Opening-Day Roster Projection 1.0