The one Rangers rookie who was a constant from Opening Day to the merciful end of the season was Nick Solak, who played left field, center field and second base, his natural position.
Solak also hit toward the top of the lineup for the run-starved Rangers. But despite all of that, he wasn’t the rookie who made the biggest impact.
Center fielder Leody Taveras was the Rangers’ most important discovery during their lousy 2020 season, and he is the only rookie who has secured a spot and a position for 2021.
Solak will be on the team, too, though it was the 22-year-old Taveras who gave the Rangers energy and hope.
“His maturity level, and the way he’s handled it every day, there hasn’t been a moment where I’ve been like, ‘I’m concerned, I don’t know if he can do this,’ ” Rangers manager Chris Woodward said. “And I know the numbers are what they are—he’s not at a .900 OPS or anything like that—but it’s just good, the quality every day. I almost feel like the numbers should be better.
“So that tells me that, once he starts getting more consistency in his swing and understanding his swing, understanding the pitchers, those balls are going to go forward—a lot. And he’s already shown that.”
Taveras showed power from both sides of the plate, an ability to adjust in game, and a keen eye, which makes him the likely leadoff hitter in 2021. When he was on base, his speed was a game-changer.
Taveras, who signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2015, hit .227/.308/.395 with four home runs and eight stolen bases in 33 games.
Taveras’ biggest him impact, though, was defensively, especially in the expansive outfield at Globe Life Field. The Rangers believe Taveras has Gold Glove potential.
“I think of all the guys, he stands out to me just because of the poise, the way he plays the game, the energy he plays with, the commitment, the work he does off the field, and then when he gets in the batter’s box he’s a competitor, man,” Woodward said.
— Righthander Kyle Cody has a leg up on a 2021 rotation spot, Woodward said. The 2016 sixth-rounder out of Kentucky)didn’t log many innings while coming off Tommy John surgery, but he pitched well after the Aug. 31 Mike Minor trade.
— The Rangers saw five players jump from Class A to the majors this season:- Cody, shortstop Anderson Tejeda, catcher Sam Huff, lefthander John King and third baseman Sherten Apostel. Apostel also played first base, a position that is unsettled entering the offseason.