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TOP 10 PROSPECTS
|1. Leody Taveras, of|
|2. Yohander Mendez, lhp|
|3. Ariel Jurado, rhp|
|4. Cole Ragans, lhp|
|5. Andy Ibanez, 2b/3b|
|6. Josh Morgan, 3b/ss|
|7. Ronald Guzman, 1b|
|8. Alex Speas, rhp|
|9. Joe Palumbo, lhp|
|10. Brett Martin, lhp|
For the fourth time in seven years, the Rangers won the American League West. They went 95-67 despite scoring just eight more runs than they allowed, pulling ahead in the division by pummeling the Astros (15-4) and going 12-7 against the Mariners.
Yet the team that led the AL in wins exited the postseason quickly. The Blue Jays swept the Rangers 3-0 in the AL Division Series, the second year in a row that Toronto ended Texas’ season in the ALDS.
In building the team, the Rangers have dipped heavily into the farm system. In three 2016 trade-deadline moves to bring back Jonathan Lucroy, Jeremy Jeffress, Carlos Beltran and Dario Alvarez, the Rangers shipped out righthanders Luis Ortiz and Dillon Tate, outfielders Lewis Brinson and Ryan Cordell and second baseman Travis Demeritte. That group includes four first-round picks: Brinson (2012), Demeritte (2013), Ortiz (2014) and Tate (2015).
Those deals came the year after the Rangers made a pair of trades—for the Phillies’ Cole Hamels and the Brewers’ Yovani Gallardo—that surrendered outfielder Nick Williams, catcher Jorge Alfaro, shortstop Luis Sardinas and righthanders Alec Asher, Marcos Diplan, Jared Eickhoff and Jake Thompson.
With the huge exodus of young talent from the organization, the farm system isn’t as robust as it once was, but the Rangers are still positioned to contend in 2017. Hamels and Yu Darvish give them two frontline starters, while a full season of Lucroy will help the pitching staff as well as the offense. Third baseman Adrian Beltre is a future Hall of Famer. Rougned Odor and Nomar Mazara are young building blocks in the lineup. Third baseman Joey Gallo exhausted his prospect eligibility in 2016, and while strikeouts remain a red flag, he has 40-homer power.
On the farm, international scouting remains an organizational strength. The Rangers signed center fielder Leody Taveras for $2.1 million as a 16-year-old out of the Dominican Republic in 2015. He has emerged as the organization’s top prospect with a well-rounded set of tools and advanced baseball skills for his age. Venezuelan lefthander Yohander Mendez and Panamanian righthander Ariel Jurado give the Rangers two upper-level pitchers who could help in 2017.
Beyond them, the Rangers’ system features more depth than impact talent, with many of their top prospects having yet to reach Double-A and unlikely to see major league time in 2017. From that lower-level wave, however, breakout talents could emerge.
The 2016 draft yielded a pair of promising prep pitchers in lefty Cole Ragans and righthander Alex Speas, while third-round infielder Kole Enright got off to a strong start in the Rookie-level Arizona League. Internationally, the Rangers added Venezuela’s David Garcia, the top-ranked catcher on the international market, while Miguel Aparicio had a promising debut in the Dominican Summer League.
1. Leody Taveras, of |
Born: Sept. 8, 1998. B-T: B-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 185. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2015. Signed by: Willy Espinal/Gil Kim/Thad Levine.
|Based on 20-80 scouting scale—where 50 represents major league average—and future projection rather than present tools.|
Background: The Rangers have had one of the most productive international pipelines in baseball over the last decade, with one of the most aggressive contingents of scouts in Latin America. They had their sights set on Taveras from an early age, then officially signed him as a 16-year-old for $2.1 million when he became eligible on July 2, 2015. Taveras is a younger cousin of Willy Taveras, the former outfielder who stood out for his speed and defense during his seven-year major league career, including 2008 when he led the majors with 68 stolen bases. Before Taveras made his official pro debut, the Rangers brought him over from the minor league back fields in 2016 and put him in three spring-training games with the major league club, and he went 1-for-4 with a double. He opened the 2016 season back home in the Dominican Summer League but didn’t spend much time there before the Rangers brought him to the U.S. for the Rookie-level Arizona League. He ranked as the league’s No. 1 prospect, got promoted to the short-season Northwest League in August and also ranked as that league’s No. 1 prospect.
Scouting Report: Taveras is a smooth, well-rounded player with an exciting blend of tools and skills for his age, and he draws comparisons with a young Carlos Beltran. Lean and athletic, Taveras has a short, simple swing from both sides of the plate. He’s a balanced hitter who uses his hands well in connection with his lower half. He’s a high-contact hitter with good feel for the barrel who unleashes a fluid swing with whippy bat speed and a clean path to the ball. He is adept at hitting fastballs, and while he’s still learning to recognize offspeed pitches, he has solid strike-zone awareness and improved his ability to manage the zone since signing, showing the ability to make adjustments within an at-bat. He uses the whole field with a line-drive approach, showing mostly gap power in games with the ability to drive the ball over the fence occasionally during batting practice. With his bat speed, strong hands and room to fill out his projectable frame, Taveras could eventually grow into average power. He makes the game look easy at the plate and in center field. He’s a plus runner with long, gliding strides. He looks natural and instinctive in center field, where he gets sharp reads and jumps off the bat to give him good range. Even when Taveras does take a false step, he has the speed to compensate and cover plenty of ground. He also has a plus arm with good accuracy.
The Future: Taveras has yet to reach full-season ball, but he has the highest ceiling and most exciting skill set in the Rangers system, with five tools that could all grade out average to plus. Mature beyond his years, he should open 2017 at low Class A Hickory. Between his ability and the Rangers’ track record of hitting the accelerator with their most talented young international prospects, he could move quickly through the system.
|DSL Rangers (R)||.385||.467||.538||39||6||15||2||2||0||9||6||5||4|
|AZL Rangers (R)||.278||.329||.382||144||22||40||6||3||1||15||11||24||11|