Always one of the youngest players in every professional league he’s called home, Texas Rangers shortstop prospect Michael De Leon found himself playing nearly every day for Double-A Frisco this summer as a 20-year-old (DOB: January 14, 1997) after spending his age-19 season in 2016 winning a High-A championship ring with High Desert in the California League. There’s ample reason the Dominican prospect has been tested at advanced levels so consistently in his career, because his defensive prowess makes him one of the best glove men in the minor leagues and likely the Rangers’ best infield defender down on the farm as the 2018 season comes into focus.

It’s a different story at the plate, though, where De Leon has struggled mightily with the bat despite being a switch hitter with average speed and an exceptional feel for contact. In 2017 with Frisco, across 418 plate appearances over 112 games, Michael De Leon slashed just .223/.257/.284/.541 with 16 doubles, two home runs, and 18 walks — but he whiffed only 48 times in spite of his trouble with the bat, suggesting a serious knack for putting the ball in play despite his inability to consistently hit it with authority. This winter, the Texas Rangers left him off their 40-man roster, exposing the shortstop to potentially being selected by another organization in the Rule 5 Draft. There’s some thought that De Leon has the right traits to help a big league club as a defensive replacement and pinch runner used sparingly at the back end of a 25-man roster considering his highly specific traits and talents; that’ll be fleshed out December 14th when the Rule 5 Draft takes place.

Below, we have a full Michael De Leon scouting report that includes tool grades, game video, analysis, and projections for the Texas Rangers shortstop prospect based on our extensive looks on him both this summer and last year in the Cal League.

Michael De Leon Scouting Report, Texas Rangers — 2017

Dates observed in 2017: May 27 – June 3

Hit (40)
Switch-hitter; tends to be far better from the right side against left-handed pitching. Significant mechanical issues in his swing, including arm-bar with some bat wrap, especially from the left side. Swing path and plane down to the ball and to the ground; shows little ability to manipulate the barrel and hit the ball in the air with authority. Slap hitter from the left side while running out of the box. All that said, exceptional bat-to-ball skills and pitch recognition; even when otherwise over-matched, shows some of the better contact skills in minor league baseball despite producing such consistently weak contact. You’d think he’ll improve hit tool overall in coming years with physical improvements, swing adjustments, and natural development considering hand-eye coordination and contact skills are so strong in his favor.

Power (20)
Extremely little power to speak of; nine home runs in 2016 were more a product of his environment in High Desert than any swing/mechanical adjustments. Unlikely to ever develop any significant power from either side of the plate.

Glove (70)
Legitimate double-plus defender at shortstop with the tools and feel to play every position but catcher. Glove is big league ready right now. Great, soft hands and instincts; good range to both sides at shortstop, feel for coming in on rollers. Aggressive; attacks the ball and stays on his toes with sense of urgency rather than waiting for the ball to come to him. Natural ability to be one of the better defensive infielders in the big leagues one day soon.

Arm (60)
Plus arm strength with good carry on throws; quick release and high level of accuracy. Strong arm from deep in the hole and accurate with velocity even when off balance and on the run. Enough arm strength to stick at shortstop.

Speed (50)
Had him consistently right around 4.20 to first base from the left side, 4.30 to first base as RHH; average raw foot speed with much better quickness and lateral footwork on defense. Smart and aggressive runner on the base paths, though stealing bases has yet to be a part of his game.

Mature; forced to grow up quickly after being pushed into leagues with players several years older throughout his career. Intense competitor; team spark plug. Popular with teammates. Has fun playing the game.

Michael De Leon Scouting Report, Texas Rangers — 2017 Game Video

Michael De Leon Scouting Report — Notes & Analysis

Michael De Leon is one of the more interesting prospects to follow at this point in his career considering the dichotomy in his game: he’s so far above-average on the defensive side of the ball, and yet so far below-average at the plate. We’ve speculated a bit on his potential Rule 5 Draft future recently if the right club has the right spot for a defensive specialist in 2018, but beyond that, the infield prospect has some work to do to prove he can play an everyday infield role in the big leagues. With a glove that’s big league ready right now, it must be tempting for the Texas Rangers to push him quickly and reap some big league value from his defensive prowess. With a bat as poor as De Leon’s, though, and the fact that he’s still not even 21 years old, the Dominican infielder has a good bit of time left to develop an offensive approach and perhaps one day fit a more stereotypical everyday shortstop role for the Texas Rangers with a bat that can do some damage.

michael de leon scouting report texas rangers baseball 2

Michael De Leon Scouting Report — Future Projection

Michael De Leon may never hit for any significant average or power, but even so, a summer season spent hitting just .223/.257/.284/.541  while playing the full year at Double-A is a disappointment no matter how you contextualize it. Considering the fact that the Texas Rangers left him off their 40-man roster ahead of the Rule 5 Draft this winter, that may be a sign they either (a) see him as expendable even with his defensive tools, or (b) see him as such an offensive project that they assume no other team will stash him on their 25-man roster. Assuming De Leon doesn’t leave in the Rule 5 Draft, he could well repeat Double-A with the hope that some offensive growth takes place, or push forward to Triple-A and continue to be weak with the bat but exceptional with the glove and a phone call away from The Show. Either way, his all-glove/no-hit future should only cement itself. In the years to come, any offensive development will push Michael De Leon into a starting shortstop job in the big leagues; if he’s unable to develop, a likely utility infield future with the Texas Rangers awaits.

Overall Future Potential (Future Value): Above-average big league defender already; will ultimately go as far as limited offensive profile can take him, with likely future as glove-first regular or platoon/utility infielder (45/50)

MLB ETA: 2019

Did you like this Michael De Leon scouting report? Get more prospects here:

Minnesota Twins OF Jean Carlos Arias — CLICK HERE

San Diego Padres RHP Andres Munoz — CLICK HERE

Toronto Blue Jays SS Kevin Vicuna — CLICK HERE

Atlanta Braves RHP Lucas Sims — CLICK HERE

Arizona Diamondbacks 1B Pavin Smith — CLICK HERE


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