MLB Deep Dives: Breakout Leod-ing

  • The Texas Rangers are one of, if not the hottest, teams in baseball right now. Everyone and their mother wants a piece of the action. The problem is most of this lineup is rostered. Corey Seager, Nate Lowe and Adolis García were all drafted early and often. Ezequiel Durán has demonstrated his skills and was accordingly picked up in most leagues a few weeks ago. Jonah Heim is a very solid catcher, all around, but not quite the batting force fantasy managers are looking for, despite his recent offensive output. That leaves slim pickings in regards to exposure to this juggernaut offense. I am here to give you one last shot at a Texas difference-maker. Introducing: Leody Taveras.

    Taveras, a once highly touted acquisition from the Dominican Republic, has seen his fair share of time in the major leagues. He has been a noteworthy name dating back to 2020 where he smacked 4 home runs and stole 8 bases in 119 at-bats. Not too shabby, but not exactly the fantasy stud we might have expected. His offensive output took a turn for the worse in 2021 where, over 174 at-bats in the bigs, Taveras hit for a .161 batting average, 3 home runs and was able to swipe 10 bags. Poorly coded, to say the least.

    As hope and excitement faded for Taveras fans and the allure of his potential as a 5-category contributor all but ceased to exist, the speedy Texas center fielder exhibited somewhat of a bounceback in 2022, where he was able to muster up a respectable .261 average, 5 homers and another 11 swipes, though this statline came over 314 at-bats and to the tune of an unimpressive .675 OPS. You see, Taveras has had two primary issues throughout his major league tenure: He would strike out A LOT (21st percentile in K% or worse in his first three seasons) and he appears to have been allergic to barrelling the ball early on. While these underlying issues have not completely vanished, Taveras is still a player in development and has made strides in mitigating these two primary flaws.

    This season, in 222 at-bats, Taveras has reduced his K% to just 19.3%. Not bad for a guy who had a 32%+ strikeout rate in his first two seasons and a 25.8% K-rate in 2022. There is a clear trend here, and while I do not necessarily believe he will finish the season striking out in less than 1 in every 5 at-bats, he should still end up with a better K percentage than last season. The bugs are being ironed out in this young, developing player, as Taveras is just 24 years old.

    The Rangers’ 9-hole hitter is still not barrelling the ball enough to be considered a prolific power hitter, doing so at just a 6.9% clip. However, this number is an improvement from last year (4.3%) and right around where he was in his first two seasons (6.5% and 6.1% respectively). It seems like Leody Taveras is combining his power skills, exhibited in his first two seasons, with his more effective plate approach, demonstrated last year. This is what we call a player “putting it all together” and Taveras is doing just that pretty early on in his career.

    Combine the optimization of his plate approach with 94th percentile sprint speed and his spot batting regularly on a playoff caliber team and we have the aforementioned breakout that may no longer simply be “loading”, but might rather be in full effect. We will need to see these adjustments and improvements sustain over a larger sample size, hoping that the server doesn’t crash halfway through the season. Should the former be the case, we have the makings of a 15-home run, 15-20 stolen base 5-category contributor that would need to be rostered in all leagues of 12-teams or deeper and will certainly be up for consideration in all category and roto leagues. If he moves to a more premium lineup spot from the 9-hole, the upside is even more tremendous. The guy is still rostered in under 55% of Yahoo leagues! Don’t make any computing errors here and add Leody Taveras.

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