GREENSBORO, N.C.—Leody Taveras’ power is growing. He proved that with one mighty swing Friday night.
The Rangers No. 1 prospect blasted a home run off the scoreboard in right-center field in the first inning of low Class A Hickory’s 6-4 loss to host Greensboro (Marlins), short-circuiting a few lights in the process.
Taveras turned on a first-pitch fastball from Greensboro righthander Alex Mateo and sent it high off the scoreboard at First National Bank Park, causing the display to flicker and glitch while the ball bounced back onto the field.
“When he’s on time and the moves are nice and easy,” Hickory hitting coach Kenny Hook said, “the swing is really special.”
Taveras hit one home run in 333 plate appearances in his first professional season last year. It took him just five at-bats to match that total this season, and to do it with emphasis.
“It’s a credit to our strength and conditioning department and our trainers,” Hook said. “They did a great job educating him at a young age on how to take care of his body and how to work out properly to maintain strength throughout the year.”
Taveras signed for $2.1 million in 2015 out of the Dominican Republic. He lived up to his bonus in his first season as a pro last year, earning No. 1 prospect status in both the Rookie-level Arizona League and short-season Northwest League.
The one area that visibly had room for improvement was his power. His lone long ball came in mid-July in the Arizona League, 32 games into his season.
Clearly, Taveras has begun taking the necessary steps to erase that power deficiency in his game.
“I just think it’s a process of him understanding his body and having a little more body awareness and the sequence of the swing,” Hook said. “I think that’s kind of what you saw on that home run. Everything was really athletic and easy moves. It’s going to produce good swings and obviously the ball jumps off his bat.”
NEWS AND NOTES
• Third baseman Ti’Quan Forbes and second baseman Yeyson Yrizarri both homered for Hickory. The righthanded Rangers prospects each drove the ball hard to the pull side for their homers, with Forbes homering beyond the 365-foot sign in left-center and Yrizarri reaching the elevated back concourse down the left-field line with a towering drive.
• Hickory righthander Kyle Cody sat 93-95 mph and touched 97 with his fastball. The 6-foot-7, 245-pound righthander struggled mightily with his command however, throwing 77 pitches (47 strikes, 30 balls) in just four innings. Cody, the Rangers sixth-round selection in 2016 out of Kentucky, threw fastballs on his first 46 pitches. He eventually mixed in an 82-83 mph slider that he landed for strikes.
• Speedy outfielder Aaron Knapp went 2-for-2 with four stolen bases for Greensboro. He stole both second and third after drawing a leadoff walk in the first inning and swiped second in both the third and sixth innings. The 2016 eighth-round pick from Cal stole 19 bases in 60 games after signing last year and projects as a plus-plus runner.