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Oscar Taveras is currently owned in 27 percent of Yahoo fantasy leagues. Expect that number to skyrocket in the coming weeks.
St. Louis Cardinals General Manager John Mozeliak told CBS Sports Radio 920 that the team’s top prospect could be up as early as the first week of June after dominating over the first two months in the minors.
Mozeliak said “from a pure baseball standpoint, he could play in the big leagues.”
“He may look absolutely lost on one pitch and the next one he might hit 450 feet,” Mozeliak said of baseball’s No. 3 top prospect. “He doesn’t ever change his approach based on looking bad. His bat has a lot of electricity in it, it really does have some juice.”
According to the team, Taveras may be up as soon as June 4 when the Cards embark on a seven-game road trip to American League parks, giving the Cards a DH spot for Allen Craig or Matt Adams and allowing Taveras to man right field.
Now it’s time to get excited. Taveras has been heralded as the next big thing since before the 2012 season. This year, Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, and MLB.com all ranked him the game’s third top prospect.
Taveras really came into his own in 2012 when he showed signs of real power, hitting 23 home runs and driving in 94 runs over 124 games in Double-A. He also posted a strong .321/.348/.471 line with 37 doubles, 83 runs, and 10 steals.
Last year, Taveras was limited by injuries to 46 games in his first stint at Triple-A but he still put up a strong .306/.341/.462 line with five home runs, 32 RBI, 25 runs, 12 doubles, and five steals.
This season, Taveras is proving that he doesn’t need any more seasoning. Through 42 games, the 21-year-old owns a .313/.361/.512 line with six home runs, 34 RBI, 27 runs, and 20 extra-base hits.
Clearly, the kid can bat for average and has some good home run power with a solid ability to drive the ball for extra-base hits as well.
Perhaps the best part of his game is that he seldom strikes out. He rarely walks, too, but his Ichiro-like ability to put the ball in play means he won’t be giving teams cheap outs. The most he has ever struck out was 56 times in 2012, walking 42 times in the process.
That kind of ability to get bat on ball means that Taveras likely won’t be plagued by the types of funks we have seen strikeout-prone hitters like George Springer endure.
We know that Taveras should be able to continue to hit for a high average. The home run power is there but he’s not a Giancarlo Stanton where he may hit a home run any time up. He’s still developing but right now it’s hard to see him hitting a lot more than 20 home runs in a full season.
The doubles and triples should definitely help his cause though, and he could contribute about 10 steals over a full season as well.
The real question with Taveras this season is playing time. With Jon Jay and Peter Bourjos combining for 18 RBI and 21 runs in center (Bourjos is also batting .225), there is a clear spot available but the Cards don’t really see Taveras as a centerfielder because he’s not the most gifted defender. According to Mozeniak, they see him as a solid corner outfielder.
With Matt Holliday and Allen Craig basically cemented into the corners, it doesn’t appear that there will be room there any time in the near future, however, so center may be the Cards’ only choice.
Considering that Jay and Bourjos have played about the same amount of time, and neither has won more starts than the other, Taveras may be given the chance to win the starting centerfield job.
If that’s the case, his defense may hurt him but if he can swing the bat like we know he can, he should be able to make a quick impact for a Cards team that desperately needs offense. St. Louis ranks 24th in the league in runs scored and 21st in OPS, a far cry from last season when they finished third in runs scored.
The hype around Taveras is real. While any rookie, especially one without a clear starting job, is a risk, stashing Taveras on your roster is a calculated one – and one that can pay off big time in four categories down the stretch.