Oscar Taveras, OF St. Louis Cardinals
Height: 6’2″ Weight: 180
Oscar Taveras was signed by the Cardinals on November 15, 2008 for $145,000 out of the Dominican Republic. He started his career in the Dominican Summer League where he hit .257 with 13 doubles and 8 triples over 237 AB. He walked 28 times and struck out just 36 times. For a 17 year old it was a pretty advanced performance in his first season.
In 2010, Taveras was able to bump the production up further in his age 18 season when he hit .322 in the Appy League with 13 doubles and 8 HR. His IsoP jumped to .204 and while his walk stayed low his K rate did as well. Proving that his ability to amke hard contact was legit.
He reiterated that in 2011 when his BABIP jumped to an astounding .448. It drove a Midwest League leading .386 AVG for season as he took home MVP honors. His IsoP stayed strong, powered by 27 doubles, 5 triples and 8 HR. His K rate stayed low and his walk rate finally climbed near 10%. It was one of the best performances in all of baseball for the season. It put Taveras high on our Baseball Instinct 360°:
33°. Oscar Taveras, OF, Cardinals, 6/19/1992 – Elite hit tool, but still not developed into the finished product. He should see High-A Palm Beach to start the 2012 season and I wouldn’t expect his power to develop there. But right around his 20th birthday I think he’ll make a jump to Double-A where his power should get a boost. He could be a .300 hitter with 15-20 HR power and solid corner defense. His arm would play in RF if needed. ETA 2014.
While we’ve clearly made our outlook for Taveras known, let’s take a deeper look at the skill set that puts him in the upper echelon of baseball prospects.
The Cardinals put a challenge to Taveras in Spring Training to prove why he deserved to move to Double-A to start the season. It was a challenge for him to take the work in the spring as a professional and he did just that. Word around camp was glowing for him and he did indeed skip High-A and jumped straight to the Texas League.
His 2011 BABIP was .448 as I mentioned prior. To put it into perspective, the average is closer to .335 for average hitters. So there was over .100 basis points of average that could stand for a correction. He hit .386 and the regression to the mean could mean a season in the .280 range for the average hitter. Taveras bat isn’t average. His ability to square up pitches in all quadrants of the zone is well above average and could be elite in short time.
His power has blossomed in the past two seasons and if he can keep that IsoP in the .200 range in his younger years it’s a good projection to say he’ll have above average power in his prime seasons. He’ll never walk a lot and his OBP will rely heavily on his contact ability, but his K rates should be better than league average as well.
Taveras can play all 3 OF spots at this time, but doesn’t have elite speed. It doesn’t translate on the base paths and the lack of the true elite speed tool almost certainly lands Taveras in a corner OF spot with RF the primary options.
He has a solid average arm and while it’s not elite either, it’s more than enough to sway runners from taking the extra base and his range in RF should play up well.
While I fully expected to see Taveras start the 2012 season the Florida State League I don’t believe the jump to Double-A will stunt his growth as a player. I expected him to dominate the FSL and move to the Texas League by midseason anyway and his power should start to show this season now that he’s there. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him start to flash that 20 HR power while holding tight to that .300+ AVG.
With that said, let’s remember that he’s not going to be 20 until the middle of June and is on track to make his debut in the majors as a 21 year old. He’s the Cardinals top position prospect and could be a perennial All-Star once he reaches his prime.
And I’m still a little bitter that I didn’t get the opportunity to see him play everyday this year. Even if it was only going to be for half the season.
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