Emerging prospect De Leon, 18, absorbing camp lessons

Switch-hitting shortstop taking advantage of spending time around Rangers veterans

Emerging prospect De Leon, 18, absorbing camp lessons

SURPRISE, Ariz.-- Rangers infield prospect Michael De Leon signed out of the Dominican Republic as a 16-year-old.

He made his professional debut at Double-A at 17, and by 18 he had already suited up for two Cactus League Spring Training games.

The switch-hitting shortstop is considered a gamer. He can field his position, makes contact at the plate, and he's known to hold his own against much older competition.

"One thing that he does really well is catch the ball at shortstop," said Mike Daly, senior director of Minor League operations. "He has a very good internal clock and a very high baseball IQ. He gives managers confidence in knowing that if a ground ball is hit to Michael, he will catch it and throw the guy out. He's a contact bat and he's a legitimate switch-hitter."

For all of his ability, it's De Leon's recent stint on the bench at Surprise Stadium, not on the field, that proved to be his most valuable time.

De Leon suited up on Friday in a Cactus League game against the Giants, but did not play. He was also on the bench for a Cactus League game last spring.

"There is so much you can learn by being around experienced players," De Leon said. "What I watched is how they are always under control and how professional they are in all situations. I watched how Adrian Beltre worked and listened to how he's telling me to give 100 percent of myself always and to dedicate myself to getting better. I didn't play, but that's fine this time."

De Leon signed with the Rangers in 2013. He played one game at Double-A Frisco and seven games at Class A Advanced Myrtle Beach, but spent most of 2014 at Class A Hickory. Overall, he hit .248 with two home runs and 32 RBIs in 93 Minor League games last season.

"The way I have described it for Michael is that last season was a 'year of opportunity for Michael De Leon,'" Daly said. "I don't think as we sat here one year ago in March and we thought he would play at Double-A, play at Hickory, play in the playoffs and play in the Arizona Fall League. It lined up really well for him, and to his credit, he took advantage of them."

De Leon replaced an injured Jurickson Profar on the Surprise Saguaros in the Arizona Fall League.

"Being in the AFL was a privilege and an honor, and even though I was the youngest player, I felt like I had the same intensity as the others," De Leon said. "It felt good to be there with guys who have played in the Major Leagues and with top prospects. I feel like I've learned a lot this year already."

Jesse Sanchez is a national reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.