Class A Advanced Down East has one of most stacked lineups in the Minor Leagues. On Monday, the Wood Ducks' lineup sported five of the top 21 Rangers prospects. They backed those rankings with a strong showing at Five County Stadium.
Texas' No. 19 prospect Diosbel Arias and sixth-ranked Leody Taveras headlined Down East's 9-7 win over Carolina, combining to reach base eight times with four RBIs and four runs scored. Arias finished 4-for-4 with two doubles and a walk. Taveras singled three times.
Video: Wood Ducks' Arias plates Taveras
Arias' initial contribution came in the first inning, when his double to left field off right-hander Dylan File sent Taveras home with the Wood Ducks' second run. He singled to center against Matt Hardy the next frame, and in the fourth, scored Taveras all the way from first with a double off the righty that rolled deep into the left-center gap. A sixth-inning knock to center vs. lefty Cody Beckman and a walk in the eighth rounded out the 22-year-old's perfect day at the plate.
"He makes good adjustments and he finds a way to get the ball on the barrel," Down East hitting coach Chase Lambin said. "I know it sounds simple, but he has a good idea of the strike zone, and when he gets a pitch to hit, he doesn't usually miss it."
With his first four-hit game of the season, Arias brought his slash line in 51 games up to .306/.360/.420. He's hit safely in seven of his last nine games and is batting .371 (13-for-35) during that span.
But those are relatively low numbers in the Cuba native's three-year career. He hit .419 with a .986 OPS in a 31 at-bat stint in the Dominican Summer League after signing with the Rangers in 2017 for $700,000. With Class A Short Season Spokane, Arias led the Northwest League with a .366 average and .451 on-base percentage in 224 at-bats last year.
Texas elected to have the 22-year-old skip Class A and start 2019 in the Carolina League. The decision has paid off thus far. Moving forward in Arias' first full season, Lambin will look to get the infielder to "own his strike zone." The coach said Arias' strong eye enables him to hit off-speed pitches. But a tendency to chase high fastballs and can bring him away from what he does best.
"He overthinks it sometimes a little bit," Lambin said. "But his cage work is pretty simple. Keep the ball in the middle of the field. Get some high heat to make sure he stays above the baseball and stays direct to the ball as opposed to getting to much length on the backside. But it's a process."
Gameday box score
Over the past week, Arias has filled in for the injured Tyreque Reed at first base. But the shortstop's lack of range and strong hands project better at third, according to MLB Pipeline. He'll continue to man the hot corner and see time at second base once Reed returns.
"His versatility is going to be huge for him if he can bounce all over the diamond with that kind of bat," Lambin said.
Taveras returned to Down East after compiling a slash line of .246/.312/.332 in 2018. The second time around, the 20-year-old looks "more comfortable in his own skin," Lambin said. As a result, Taveras has delivered his best numbers since he signed out of the Dominican Republic for $2.1 million in 2015. The switch-hitting outfielder is batting .311/.369/.415 and his average hasn't dipped below .300 yet.
2019 MiLB include
"This year, he's just trusting his abilities and letting it fly," Lambin said. "He's aggressive to his pitch. He's not feeling for the ball, he's not just trying to plop a single the other way. He's trying to impact the baseball, which for him is getting in a good position to hit all speeds to all fields. Just being able to learn what his best approach is and what his best swing is."
Sam Huff, the Rangers' No. 21 prospect, added two of the Wood Ducks' 15 hits. Third-ranked Anderson Tejeda walked twice to bring his on-base percentage to .316. Both scored once and tallied an RBI.
No. 24 Rangers prospect Demarcus Evans didn't allow a hit over the final 1 2/3 innings to pick up his sixth save. The 22-year-old right-hander sports a 0.81 ERA in 22 1/3 innings this season.
Fourteenth-ranked Brewers prospect Mario Feliciano went 3-for-5 with two doubles for Carolina. Milwaukee's No. 10 prospect Payton Henry added three singles.