Taveras on callup: 'Best year of my life'

September 11th, 2020

knows how fortunate he is to be in the big leagues. The Rangers' center fielder also knows how hard he has worked to get to this point, so he’s going to enjoy every minute of it.

“This has been the best year of my life,” Taveras, who turned 22 on Tuesday, said in Spanish. “It’s been a blessing from God. There’s really no way to describe it or explain how good it has been.”

How good has it been? Taveras has a hit in six of his past seven games and has reached base in 14 of his first 16 starts since being recalled from the the Rangers' alternate training site on Aug. 24. He stole home on Wednesday against the Angels.

“I’ve learned a little bit of everything,” Taveras said. “If I say I’ve learned nothing, then that’s a lie. I feel like I’m taking advantage of my opportunities, asking teammates and trying to get better. I’m learning a lot about this game.”

Taveras made a name for himself on defense dating back to his days as a teenage prospect in the Dominican Republic, but he’s showing the type of offensive potential that could also make him a threat in the batter’s box. It’s a small sample size, but 18 of his first 36 batted balls this season have been hard-hit -- classified by Statcast with exit velocity of 95 mph or higher -- and six of his 13 hits, which includes his two home runs, have been for extra bases. He's also stolen three bases.

But like most players his age, Taveras is a work in progress. He struck out 22 times in his first 58 at-bats, and he's 2-for-11 against breaking pitches and 4-for-19 against offspeed.

“The pitchers are more intelligent and have better command in the big leagues, and that’s the biggest difference,” Taveras said. “I feel like I am adapting. We all work hard to get to this point so we can keep on adjusting. And up to this point, things are going well.”

Taveras slashed .260/.323/.358 in four Minor League seasons, with 89 stolen bases and 28 triples. He also hit 19 home runs. So far, he’s hitting .224/.318/.414 in the Majors.

“With the swing, I think there are a couple adjustments that he’s constantly working through,” Rangers manager Chris Woodward said. “I know in his cage work and BP, there are some things that he knows he needs to get to be successful on a consistent basis. He values the right things. He values getting on base. He values putting good swing on good strikes. It’s been really impressive to see this guy’s mentality. That’s why he is having success in the short term, and I know long term, he is going to have a ton of success.”

The Rangers are historically among the most aggressive teams on the international market, and that’s part of the reason the club landed Taveras in the first place for $2.1 million on July 2, 2015. At the time, Taveras was considered one of the top international prospects in the class of '15, a group that also included Andy Ibáñez. Three years later, Taveras was the No. 1 Rangers prospect.

Overall, 11 of the club’s current Top 30 prospects were signed by the club during the international period.

“One thing that has impressed me with Leody is that he is constantly asking questions and constantly trying to learn about himself, about others, what kind of routines guys have and what are guys looking for,” Woodward said. “He’s always asking about ways to improve, and he’s working his tail off.”