Oscar Taveras – OF – St. Louis Cardinals
The Basics: 21 years old, born in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic. He’s listed at 6’2” 200 lbs. He bats and throws left handed. The Cardinals signed Taveras as an undrafted free agent in November of 2008. He was added to the 40 man roster in late November of 2013 and could see time at all three outfield positions for the Cardinals in 2014.
MiLB Career: Taveras began his pro career on the Cardinals Domincan Summer League team. He hit .257 with 42 RBIs in just 65 games before heading to Johnson City, TN for a spot with the Rookie League team. Cardinal scouts felt good about themselves after his 53 game stint in which he hit .322 with 8 HRs and 43 RBIs while being named an Appalachian League all-star. In 2011 Taveras moved on to single A ball in Davenport, IA and continued his development. In 78 games the lefty posted 8 HRs and 62 RBIs with a .386 average, .444 OBP, and .584 SLG. His average was the highest the Midwest League had seen since 1956 and earned him the batting title. Before another promotion to double-A in 2012, Taveras was named the Cardinals 3rd best prospect and top 100 in all of baseball by Baseball America. Taveras took a huge step in Springfield, hitting 23 HRs and 94 RBIs. His .321 average was good enough for the Texas League batting title as well as Cardinals Minor League Player of the Year and Texas League Player of the Year. Going in to the 2013 season, Taveras moved on to the triple-A Memphis Redbirds and was regarded by Baseball America as the Cardinals number one prospect and number three overall in baseball. 2013 was a season in which many expected Taveras to make the 40 man roster by fall, but an ankle injury and subsequent surgery limited him to just 46 games. He hit .306 with 5 HRs and 32 RBIs.
Future: Taveras is expected to be with the big league team in St. Louis full time this season, although he hasn’t completely recovered from ankle surgery at this point. He has an outside shot of being the starter in RF, but that looks to be Allen Craig’s to lose since Matt Adams seems to be the guy at 1B for the Cards. This will give Taveras an opportunity to break himself in and get time at each OF position along with Jon Jay off the bench. His future is considered a bright one; his swing has been called a left handed version of Vladimir Guerrero. Others have said he’s the best player to come up through the Cardinals system since Albert Pujols. He looks to have the tools to become a star at the plate and respectable right fielder, although the Cardinals will give him plenty of guidance and opportunity to prove himself in center.
Conclusion: With this prospect, it’s not a question of if he will contribute and have an impact, but when. The Cardinals are an NL favorite again for good reason. They are deep and talented, which may delay Taveras’ breakout. The Cardinals are confident in the youngster and fans are ready to see him in St. Louis after being teased last season by his ankle injury. He’ll get his shot this season in spurts, and could see extended time in the lineup if any one of Holliday, Craig, or Adams hit the DL. Once again, the Cardinals farm system pulls another one seemingly out of nowhere.