TCN 2013 Cardinals Prospect #1: Oscar Taveras

The main question with the new top prospect in the system is the timing of his arrival in St. Louis. Today's report is FREE!

The Cardinal Nation/ Player Profile
(including links to full 2012 and career stats)

Home: Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic

2012 rank Pos. DOB Ht. Wt. Bat Thw Signed Round
3 OF 6/19/1992 6-2 180 L L 2008 FA

Selected 2012 stats

SPR 0.321 0.323 477 83 153 37 23 94 42 56 10 0.411 0.380 0.572 0.953

Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)

CariocaCardinal (1): What can be said about uber-prospect Oscar Taveras that hasn't already been said? Generally considered one of the top, if not the top hitting prospects in the game, Taveras just keeps raising the bar of expectations. In fact, as I saw commented on our message board this week, is there any way the youngster can not fail to live up to expectations?

In 2012, he did manage to live up to expectations, however. Despite his BABIP falling from .440 to .323, Taveras won his second straight league batting title while increasing his power and cutting down on his strikeouts. For the icing on the cake, he set a personal best in stolen bases with a successful 10 of 11 attempts.

With the expectations for his performance already set at a nearly unattainable level, the speculation now turns to his arrival date. While some fans would like to see Taveras open 2013 with the major league team, it seems unlikely to happen under almost any scenario. The economics of the game dictate that Taveras spend some time in 2013 in the minors in order to push back his free agency by a year. So Taveras almost certainly starts 2013 in Memphis with his call up to the majors most likely dependent on a combination of his performance and injuries with St. Louis.

Message board community (1): Taveras climbed from second on the community list last year to first this year. What can I say about him that is new?

Taveras was just 19 when the minor league season began, and he raked at Double-A. His OPS was .953, good for second in the Texas League, well ahead of the third place .907. The one hitter ahead of him is nearly four years older. Taveras was eighth in OBP (.380) and second in slugging at .572.

The lefty hitter (not surprisingly) hit righties (OPS of .992) better than lefties (.858), but this was almost all due to slugging. His OBP was .382 vs. righties and .376 vs. lefties. Taveras has a remarkable ability to make contact, as he fanned just 15 times in his last 217 plate appearances last year. He has an unconventional approach at the plate, and a particularly violent swing, but he's been successful with it thus far.

If he can remain in center field, he might be one for the ages. Heck, he might be even if (as most seem to expect) he moves to one of the corners. Look for him in Memphis next year. I would think he would compete with Matt Adams for a call up if Carlos Beltran or Matt Holliday is injured. (Adams would take first with Allen Craig moving to the outfield.) - Gagliano

Brian Walton (1): Only on the very last player of our top 40 countdown do all three voters finally agree numerically – Taveras is the new unanimous top dog in the Cardinals minor league system. In the process, he unseated Shelby Miller, our selection as the organization's top prospect in each of the last two years.

In fact, what didn't Taveras win in 2012? He culminated his whirlwind year by excelling in the Dominican Winter League. Hitting between 12-time MLB all-star Manny Ramirez and former American League MVP Miguel Tejada for Aguilas, Taveras was named the league's Rookie of the Year.

Earlier, Taveras was mid-season and post-season all-star selections in the Texas League. He was the MVP of both the TL All-Star Game and following the season, of the entire league, and then added Topps Double-A all-star recognition. Taveras played for the World club in the MLB Futures Game in Kansas City. He was a two-time system Player of the Month in 2012 and was named the Player of the Year, both by the Cardinals organization and The Cardinal Nation.

Having cited all those positive results, I still don't see Taveras in St. Louis soon. If for no other reason, financial considerations related to arbitration eligibility and free agency later on mean he almost certainly will open the season in Memphis. Further, I doubt the organization will want to add him to the 40-man roster until they really need him to play every day. That might be later in the season, in September, or in the worst case for Taveras, not at all.

Not to worry, as Taveras will not turn 21 until June. His time will come, and when it does, it should last a long time. It is worth noting that he represents the most celebrated hitter to come up through the system since Colby Rasmus and should become the first Cardinals regular to graduate from the organization's re-born international program, now in its ninth year.

Our 2013 top 40 countdown continues: To see the list of top Cardinals prospects announced to date and remaining article schedule, click here. You can also read each of the voters' philosophies in making their selections.

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