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
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 — 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
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