30 Prospects in 30 Days: Oscar Taveras
How else to kick off our 30 Prospects in 30 Days series than with a profile of Oscar Taveras? Taveras, a twenty-year old outfielder in the St. Louis Cardinals organization, is arguably the best hitting prospect in the minors.
Taveras is the prime jewel of the Cardinals’ farm system, which is at or near the top of basically every organization ranking. He’s been compared to Vladimir Guerrero for his violent swing and his ability to hit for average and power all the while getting on base at a high percentage, too. Let’s start with that comparison. Taveras didn’t perform as well as Vlad did in his first two years in the minors, but while Vlad debuted at 19 in rookie ball, Taveras was just 17 in his first season. At 18, Taveras put up a .303/.342/.485 line in his second stint in rookie ball, but he really took off in 2011 at single-A.
I know, I know – “Only eight home runs!” But last year in his first stop at AA, at only 20 years old, he hit 23 in 124 games. He also stole 10 bases and had a .953 OPS. Albert Pujols’ best OPS in the minors was .953 as a 20-year-old in single-A. Taveras has 115 walks compared to only 190 strikeouts in 327 minor-league games. So he’s put up crazy good offensive numbers while displaying great plate discipline at every stop in the minors where he’s been playing against opponents who are several years older and more experienced than him.
MLB.com says Taveras is “the kind of talent that doesn’t come around too often” who profiles as “a sure-fire middle-of-the-order run producer.” MLB.com grades Taveras, on the 2-8 scale, as a current 5 hitter, which says he’d be about an average hitter in the majors right now. His future hit tool ranking is 7, which means he’s projected to be a well-above average major-league hitter. His current power is deemed a 4, while his future power is projected to be a 6, which is again above average. An “8” grade is rarely handed out, so with Taveras receiving 6’s and 7’s it means he has the chance to be very special in the majors.
For 2013, Taveras doesn’t project to contribute much in St. Louis as the Cards’ front office wants him to grow in other aspects of his game in the minor leagues outside of hitting. The Cardinals’ outfield is full of studs, so it would have to take a long-term injury to an outfielder to get Taveras in a Redbirds uniform. I say long-term because the Cardinals have Matt Carpenter as well as Shane Robinson and Adron Chambers who could fill in for a week or two. Carlos Beltran’s on the last year of his contract so all signs point to Taveras taking over the starting right field job in 2014. For keeper-league drafts this year, Taveras makes an OK mid-round pick. In yearly leagues he’s worth a stash as a late-round bench pick, but don’t expect him to start in St. Louis as that time will come next year.