Bernie Pleskoff

Rays prospect Leonard showing impressive power potential

Rays prospect Leonard showing impressive power potential

Not many professional baseball players can say they were coached in high school by a former Major League star. However, that was the case with Rays prospect Patrick Leonard.

Leonard's family moved from Florida to Houston, Tex., and Leonard got the opportunity to learn from former Astros star Craig Biggio.

A very good pitcher prior to converting to shortstop while working with Biggio, Leonard felt time he spent working as a pitcher refining his repertoire could be better spent improving his best tool -- his hitting ability. Throwing a complete repertoire of a 90-mph fastball, a changeup and a curveball with success, Leonard made the conversion to become a position player where he could still use his strong, accurate arm.

At the completion of high school, the Royals selected Leonard in the fifth round of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft. Leonard was taken as a shortstop.

Leonard played one season for Kansas City at its Appalachian Rookie League club in Burlington. His 14 home runs in 268 plate appearances led the league. He also smoked nine doubles and three triples, showing the surprising speed he possesses for a man 6-foot-4 and 225-pounds. He hit .251, but coaxed 30 walks and struck out a fairly low 55 times. Leonard also led Appalachian League third basemen in fielding percentage.

On December 12, 2012, Leonard was part of the blockbuster deal that sent Rays pitchers James Shields, Wade Davis and a player to be named to the Royals for Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi, Mike Montgomery and the lesser-known prospect, Leonard.

I have gotten my first look at Leonard in the Arizona Fall League. I think Rays fans will be very pleased with the offensive power and production of Leonard. It may take some time for him to make his debut with the parent club, but the soon-to-be 22-year-old corner infielder has promise as a middle-of-the-order slugger. At a time in baseball when power hitters are rare, he could eventually develop the type of hitting and power skills to change the direction of a game.

While he has played both third base and first base in the Rays' system, Leonard will see most of his action at first base and designated hitter while in Arizona this fall.

A versatile athlete like his high school coach Biggio, Leonard has also played right field in the past. His strong arm and quick feet along with the power in his bat are assets that require finding a place for him to play. However, after all is said and done, he may have found a more permanent home at first base.

Leonard has completed three seasons of Minor League baseball. He has a composite .254 batting average that includes a less-than-exciting '13 season at Class A Bowling Green in the Midwest League. He scuffled hitting for average there, but he still managed to collect 26 doubles and nine homers in 493 plate appearances.

This past season at Class A Advanced Charlotte may have been his coming out party. He hit .284 with 13 homers and 58 RBIs, and also stole 14 bases. Leonard put himself on the Rays' map and may be a real gift from the Shields trade.

Using an upright stance at the plate, Leonard has a fairly level swing and quick enough hands and wrists to wait back on a pitch. He has the ability to use the entire field and can best be described as a line-drive, gap hitter. I think there is much more power to come, especially if he gets a bit more uppercut in his swing.

Leonard is a patient hitter and he knows the strike zone well. He recognizes pitches and knows the pitches he can drive. Breaking balls don't seem to fool him to the same extent as they do many young hitters.

After cracking a double in an early Fall League game, Leonard was hit by a pitch and had to leave the game. After this fall, he'll enter next season having gained valuable experience facing higher quality pitching.

Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. Follow @BerniePleskoff on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.