When our other prospect writers submit scouting reports, I will provide a short background and industry consensus tool grades. There are two reasons for this: 1) giving context to account for the writer seeing a bad outing (never threw his changeup, coming back from injury, etc.) and 2) not making him go on about the player’s background or speculate about what may have happened in other outings.
The writer still grades the tools based on what they saw, I’m just letting the reader know what he would’ve seen in many other games from this season, particularly with young players that may be fatigued late in the season. The grades are presented as present/future on the 20-80 scouting scale and very shortly I’ll publish a series going into more depth explaining these grades. -Kiley
Michael De Leon, SS, Myrtle Beach Pelicans (Rangers High-A)
A lower profile signing from last year’s July 2nd class ($550,000 bonus) jumped straight to full-season ball at age 17 and hasn’t been that bad at the plate thanks to advanced bat-to-ball ability. He can play shortstop well, but is an average runner with ordinary tools that many scouts think is a second baseman long-term and his lack of power pegs him as more of a utility type (from the Rangers top 27 list).
Hit: 20/50, Game Power: 20/35, Raw Power: 35/40, Speed: 50/50+, Field: 50/55, Throw: 55/55 -Kiley
De Leon has turned a lot of heads by keeping his batting average above water–.244 in Low-A, .286 (in 15 PAs) in High-A, and 1-for-3 in a Double-A cameo—as a 17-year-old. Most of this is due to his ability to make contact—his strikeout rate for the year is 11%—more than any real ability to drive the ball. His swing needs some work, as his hands are in a bad position behind his back shoulder in his load, but he manages to get the bat to the ball most of the time. A switch-hitter, he’s better from the right side, as his stroke is more fluid. De Leon has plenty of time to add strength and start making more BABIP-friendly contact, and he also has time to smooth out his swing; in conjunction with his ability to avoid the strikeout, this combination may make him a .265-.270 hitter in his prime.
As mentioned above, De Leon lacks the strength to make hard contact with regularity, due to his extremely skinny 6’1” build. He offers much more power from the right side (.168 ISO vs. .027 as a lefty) due to the superior mechanics, and he shows the ability to add some loft as a righty. He’ll never be any sort of power threat, but if he can add 10-15 pounds of muscle as he matures, he’ll sting some doubles and take the occasional soft-tossing lefty out of the ballpark.
De Leon’s skinny build and reputation as a glove wizard may lead many to think he’s a burner on the bases. He isn’t; while he’s a bit above-average, calling him a plus runner is a stretch. He only has three steals (in six attempts) this year; his smarts for the game might allow him to reach double-digit totals at some point, and he could evolve into a good baserunner, but speed will never be a true central component to his game.
De Leon has extraordinary defensive polish for a player his age. He handles himself gracefully in the field, has tremendous field awareness and positioning ability, and shows very fluid actions. Some scouts believe he’s already an MLB-caliber defender, and he even avoids errors (.967 fielding percentage) at a near-MLB rate. He gets so much out of his natural ability already that his defensive ceiling isn’t as high as you might think given his current ability, but he should still be a clearly plus defender at shortstop.
De Leon’s arm is clearly above average; he gets excellent carry on his throws and can make plays from deep in the hole. As his low error rate for his age and level bears out, he also displays very advanced arm accuracy.
It’s hard for me to not look at De Leon and compare him to White Sox prospect Cleuluis Rondon. I’ve seen both play extensively for North Carolina-based teams, and both are defensive wunderkinds who have punchless lefthanded swings, much better righty cuts, and don’t boast as much straight-line speed as you might think. While Rondon is more of a Rey Ordonez type who can dominate highlight reels, De Leon is more of a steady, sound player who is slightly more balanced overall, largely because he has a better feel for controlling the strike zone and getting the bat on the ball. That’s not to say he has a high offensive ceiling, but players of this ilk are valuable even if they hit a punchless .240, and De Leon’s got a very real chance to eclipse that by a fair margin.
Jairo Beras, OF, Hickory Crawdads (Rangers Low-A)
Beras is most known for his $4.5 million bonus and age issues that led to that huge bonus. He’s now becoming known to scouts for an aloof demeanor and drawing physical comparison to a baby deer (he’s listed at 6’5/178). Beras has easy plus power projection and arm strength with the bat speed and bat control to make those matter, but his .245/.303/.349 full season debut with 27/124 BB/K ratio shows why he’s fallen behind the younger Mazara, who’s already in AA (from the Rangers top 27 list).
Hit: 20/40, Game Power: 20/55, Raw Power: 60/65, Speed: 45/45, Field: 40/45, Throw: 60/60 -Kiley
“Raw” is a word that aptly describes Beras’ current hitting ability and plate approach, which shouldn’t come as a surprise for a giant 18-year-old. With his hulking height and long limbs, Beras has both a very large strike zone to handle and a lot to coordinate in the box, and he’s only in the beginning stages of figuring out how to negotiate that. He complicates these natural disadvantages by having a fairly noisy setup at the plate with a lot of hand movement. His swing itself is fairly workable with a reasonable bat path, though he tends to pull off the ball and is mostly a guess hitter at present. Every now and then, he’ll jump on a first-pitch fastball or work the count and start to get more comfortable in the box, and these moments have increased in frequency as the season has progressed, but there’s a whole lot of work in front of Beras if he is to hit even .250 in the big leagues.
With his massive frame and easy swing leverage, Beras has plus raw power. He doesn’t sell out for it, though, just trying to focus on easy contact at present. He should be able to tap into his power more frequently as he gains experience and gets more comfortable in the box, though his struggles as a hitter likely will prevent his power from playing all the way up to its raw potential.
Speed: 35/40, Field: 25/45, Arm: 60/60
Beras has some natural athleticism, but he’s still growing into his huge frame and doesn’t move well at present. This is especially evident in the outfield, where his movements appear quite tentative even when he’s just running in a straight line, but it manifests in his baserunning as well. As he grows into his body and gets more comfortable, he should have moderate athletic ability. He has a decent sense of the game for a player of his age but has to grow into his body to actualize his natural athleticism (a problem that fellow Rangers farmhand Nomar Mazara has made considerable inroads on this year). He does have a plus arm, though it comes with present accuracy issues. He likely will be a fringe-average right fielder in time.
Beras has a long way to go, and his athleticism and hitting struggles likely will be significant limiting factors for him as time progresses. However, his flashes of feel for the game may yet give him enough to go with his raw power to make him a successful big leaguer.
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