There's no doubt the Rangers would have liked to see more production from Leody Taveras with Class A Advanced Down East last year. But the past is the past, and he's doing his most to make up for it. The Rangers' sixth-ranked prospect went 4-for-5 with a triple and two runs scored
There's no doubt the Rangers would have liked to see more production from Leody Taveras with Class A Advanced Down East last year. But the past is the past, and he's doing his most to make up for it.
The Rangers' sixth-ranked prospect went 4-for-5 with a triple and two runs scored to lead the Wood Ducks past Myrtle Beach, 8-3, on Wednesday at TicketReturn.com Field. Sal Mendez delivered 5 2/3 scoreless innings out of the bullpen, striking out six and walking one, in the win.
Above all, Taveras' 60-grade speed was on display in the early going against the Pelicans. Facing starter Erling Moreno in the first inning, the 20-year-old lined a 2-0 pitch up the middle. Center fielder D.J. Wilson took a bad angle and as the ball trickled past him, Taveras turned easily strolled into third with his Carolina League-leading third triple.
The native of the Dominican Republic again turned on the burners in the third when he dropped a bunt on the first pitch against Moreno. He scored three batters later on a single to left by 19th-ranked Diosbel Arias.
Taveras bested Moreno for a third time in the fourth by working a 3-1 count and singling to left, but top Cubs prospectMiguel Amaya caught him stealing. The switch-hitter led off the seventh against reliever Brendan King with his fourth knock of the game before striking out in the ninth.
Gameday box score
Selected to the Futures Game last July, Taveras started his age 19-season with the Wood Ducks as the Rangers' top prospect. He batted .246/.312/.332 with five homers and 48 RBIs in 132 games. His second go-round in the Carolina League has produced better results: through the first month of the season, he's batting .327 with an .819 OPS and six extra-base hits.
What has always held up for Taveras, however, is his glove. The 65-grade fielder has committed one error this year after making seven errors in the outfield in 2018.
Heading into the season, Rangers director of player development Matt Blood had little concern regarding Taveras' 2018 campaign.
"He just needs to keep being Leody, keep working hard," Blood told MiLB.com in March. "He's a great kid. He's young. Just continue to stay on his path the way he's playing. ... He's got all the tools. He just needs to continue progressing as a player and he's going to be just fine."
Mendez stole the show with his performance out of the bullpen. The left-hander had appeared in seven games, twice working 3 2/3 innings. On Wednesday, he threw a season-high 69 pitches, 46 for strikes.
Wood Ducks starter and Rangers No. 20 prospect A.J. Alexy struggled with his command over two innings, walking four and surrendering three runs on three hits with two strikeouts. But Mendez came in to put out the fire and the Down East offense had plenty of pop.
The 24-year-old entered with Amaya on first after a walk and none out in the third. He promptly induced a double play grounder on his third pitch. Carlos Sepulveda walked against Mendez with one out in the fifth but was the lone Pelican to reach base against him.
After the free pass, the Weehawken, New Jersey, native sat down the final 10 hitters he faced and handed the ball to Peter Fairbanks, who recorded the final four outs for the Wood Ducks.
Mendez has steadily worked his way through the Minor Leagues since the Rangers selected him in the 40th round of the 2013 Draft. He needed Tommy John surgery shortly after hearing his name called and did not pitch in games until 2015, when he made nine starts in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League.
In 2016, the 6-foot-4 hurler made 14 appearances for Class A Short Season Spokane, then threw 93 2/3 frames between nine starts and 14 relief appearances for Class A Hickory the following year. Last season, he transitioned to more of a strictly bullpen role with the Crawdads (17 games) but made eight starts out of 15 appearances once he was promoted to Down East.
Over 53 2/3 innings with the Wood Ducks in 2018, Mendez went 2-3 with a 3.69 ERA. Strikeouts have never been a centerpiece of his approach on the mound; he nearly reached his career high of six punchouts, with six of his outs coming on the ground Wednesday. The performance lowered Mendez's ERA to 2.61 and his WHIP to 1.11 while giving him 23 whiffs in 20 2/3 innings.
Rangers No. 2 prospect Julio Pablo Martinez cracked a three-run triple in the third and fourth-ranked Anderson Tejeda tripled, doubled, walked, scored twice and plated a run.
Chris Bumbaca is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @BOOMbaca.