Springfield Cardinals 2012 Player of the Year

Outfielder Oscar Taveras led the Double-A Cardinals in nearly all offensive categories in 2012, propelling himself into top prospect status.

A rash of young talent came through for the Springfield Cardinals during the 2012 season. After all, there was enough skill and determination to earn the organization's first Texas League Championship. Yet, with so much talent on the Cardinals team this season, the choice for the Springfield Cardinals Player of the Year is a pretty clear and easy choice. How could the honor not be awarded to a player who has already been awarded Texas League Player of the Year honors? Still for the sake of entertainment, let's go ahead and make some comparisons.

Of course you know by now that Oscar Taveras is the unquestionable 2012 Springfield Cardinals Player of the Year. After being challenged in Spring Training by Cardinals Farm Director John Vuch to go out and earn his promotion, Taveras spent over half the season as one of the youngest players in the Texas League. Still, the 19-year-old got off to a hot start, leaving few questions that promoting the slick hitting outfielder directly from Low-A Quad Cities to Double-A Springfield was the right move.

Taveras got through the season relatively unscathed as only minor hamstring, knee, and fatigue issues kept him out for just 16 games in the 2012 season. His appearance in 124 games was fourth on the team behind Xavier Scruggs, who played in 130 games, and Kolten Wong and Adam Melker, who each appeared in 126 games. In those 124 games, Taveras had 477 at-bats, second on the team to Wong. The young outfielder ended the season with a .321 batting average, which not only led the team but the Texas League, as teammate Jermaine Curtis finished second.

Further cementing his place as the Double-A ‘Birds player of the year, Taveras either led or was among the leaders of the team in nearly all other offensive categories. Taveras was first on the team in home runs (23), RBI (94), doubles (37), triples (7), hits (153), total bases (273), and runs (83).

Furthermore, Taveras struck out only 56 times, which was the second fewest of any player on the team with 300 or more at bats. To add some context to that statistic, Taveras had 11 fewer strikeouts than he had extra base hits in 2012. Taveras was also tied for second on the team with 10 stolen bases, behind Wong who stole 21.

In my opinion, Taveras' intrigue comes with his ability to drive the ball for extra base hits. Out of his 153 hits, 67 went for extra bases. As mentioned earlier, the breakdown of those extra base hits was 23 home runs, 37 doubles, and 7 triples. At barely 20 years old, Taveras likely isn't fully developed yet and we could expect to see him to gain additional power and see some of those double and triples turn into home runs and some singles turn into doubles and triples.

To add some comparison, Albert Pujols put together his third 30 home run and 50 double season of his career in 2012. I'm not saying Taveras will put up numbers like that and I'm definitely not saying that the outfield prospect is the next coming of Pujols, but I do think it could be reasonable to hope for Taveras to have a few 80+ extra base hit seasons after he has established himself at the big league level.

Taveras' talent did not stop with the bat. Having earned a reputation of needing to develop himself defensively, Taveras played 107 games in centerfield for the Springfield Cardinals. Not only did Taveras have the second fewest errors of any player who played over 100 games with the Cardinals, but he also came up with several outstanding catches in crucial times during the Texas League playoffs. The newly-founded slick fielder also led the team with six outfield assists, all from centerfield.

Furthermore, Taveras garnered national attention this season by earning the honors of Baseball America Minor League All-Star, Texas Player of the Year, Texas League Post-Season All-Star, MLB All-Star Futures Game Selection, Texas League Mid-Season All-Star, and Texas League Player of the Week for the week on June 11th. Also adding to the excitement, Taveras was named the Cardinals number one prospect and number 12 overall prospect by MLB.com.

Taveras came a long way in making a name for himself in 2012. Starting the season as "Minor League Guy" during a FSN telecast at Spring Training, the young talent made sure that there wouldn't be a time again where people wouldn't know who he was by having a outstanding breakout season in Springfield. Now, after earning nearly every honor he could take home, it will be exciting to see what Taveras can accomplish as he continues to climb - and we may even see him in a St. Louis uniform sometime during the 2013 season.

Link to master article with all 2012 award winners, team recaps and article schedules for the remainder of this series.

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