Remember Patrick Leonard, the young third base prospect the Tampa Bay Rays received as part of their trade of James Shields and Wade Davis? Well, right now, he is crushing the ball for the Durham Bulls.
Back when the Tampa Bay Rays acquired Patrick Leonard from the Kansas City Royals, he was an afterthought. Included as part of the package for Wade Davis and James Shields, Leonard was overshadowed by top prospects Wil Myers and Jake Odorizzi. It was understandable why that would be the case; Leonard was a 20 year old in low-A ball, while Myers was considered a future star and Odorizzi was expected to be a top of the rotation starter.
While Myers has blossomed into that player, it has been with the San Diego Padres. Odorizzi, meanwhile, has become a solid, middle of the rotation starter. If the Rays are to get a star from that move, it will need to come from Leonard, the throw in lottery ticket in the blockbuster trade.
Thus far in 2017, Leonard is doing his part to fulfill his end of the bargain. After struggling in his first taste of AAA action last year, Leonard has acclimated himself quite well to the International League in 2017. In 20 games entering last night’s action, he has posted a stellar .423/.483/.577 batting line, with six doubles and two homers in his 87 plate appearances.
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Although he was not rated amongst the Rays top 30 prospects at the start of the year, Leonard has exceeded his recent expectations. Although he may no longer be expected to develop into the power bat it was once hoped he would become, Leonard has still hit over 20 doubles for four consecutive years. If is power develops a bit more, he could be a serviceable piece in the Rays lineup.
The problem is, he does not have a clear spot on the roster. At third, his place on the diamond is blocked by Evan Longoria. First base, while seemingly open, is likely waiting for either Jake Bauers or Casey Gillaspie to come up and take the job. As such, the Rays have tried Leonard at both corner outfield positions last season, albeit with limited success.
Chances are, for Leonard to get his chance with the Rays, he is going to need to force the issue. At this point, he is doing exactly that in Durham, as he has been on fire to start the season. If nothing less, if he continues to hit well, Leonard could become a trade chip to help the Rays fill out their Major League roster.
A forgotten piece of the return for Wade Davis and James Shields, Patrick Leonard is on fire for the Durham Bulls right now. It remains to be seen if that hot start will force him into the Tampa Bay Rays plans, or if he will have to find a Major League opportunity elsewhere.