As a Cardinals fan I’ve been well aware that we’ve got one of the best farm systems in Baseball, if not THE best!!. And while I’ve become familiar with young names like Matt Adams, Shelby Miller and Kolten Wong, there are other players who have so far escaped my notice.
So while following the Winter Leagues for the first time this off-season I was pleasantly surprised to come across a name I didn’t recognise, and if current form and future potential is anything to go by, will be a future All-Star for years to come – ladies and gentlemen I give you, Oscar Taveras.
I recently found this tweet from Jason Parks of The Baseball Prospectus, regarding Taveras, which just about sums up how highly regarded this young Prospect actually is –
Easily standing out as the best hitting Prospect in the Cardinals organisation since Albert Pujols (oh, how quickly we all forget Colby Rasmus), Oscar Taveras spent 2012 in AA playing for the Springfield Cardinals where he put up a .321/.380/.572 line to go with his 23 home runs, 74 RBIs and 37 doubles! Bear in mind he won’t be 21 until June 2013 and, as he gets older and fills out, you can look at adding some serious power to go along with those numbers!!
His sterling efforts helped lead his team to the Texas League Championship and the Springfield Cards were later named Baseball Americas Minor League ‘Team of the Year’. Oscar Taveras himself was named the Cardinals Minor League Player of the Year as well as the Texas League Player of the Year. MLB.com ranked Taveras as the Cardinals number one prospect (a position echoed in Baseball Americas 2013 prospect guide), and the number three prospect in the whole of Baseball!
Wow!!! We’re talking a huge bat here with massive potential for the future!
An recent Bleacher Report article from JerryBurnes described Taveras as The Next Big Thing –
“From an overall outlook, Taveras has the tools to be in the majors right now and follow Harper, Trout and Manny Machado in the outstanding wave of 20-year-olds that has taken over baseball. Taveras will start the year in Triple-A but should make his debut in 2013 barring any setback in his progress.”
As always I’ll let the guys at Baseball Prospect Nation take it from here…
Body (6-2, 185): Average body with natural strength. Doesn’t stand out physically but has a decent frame. Solid athlete. Improved conditioning and physique over last year.
Hit: Incredible. Wide base with outstanding balance throughout swing. Leg kick keys timing and he loads heavily on his back leg before exploding at the ball. Tremendous hand speed and strength allows superb bat control. Very aggressive swinger with swing that borders on violent. Makes easy contact. Plus-plus hand-eye coordination. Incredible natural hitter with batting title potential. Could hit .280+ in the big leagues right now and has potential to hit .300+ for his career. Near big-league ready hitter with elite potential. Grade – 60/80
Power: Improved power projection this year. Plus-plus bat speed with incredible ability to square the ball. Can drive it to all fields and has improved loft in swing. Has 25-30 home run potential with tons of doubles as well. Could continue to improve power profile but has plus future power right now and I’m buying plus-plus ceiling. Grade (raw power) – 50/70
Arm: Arm strength varies at times. Showed more consistency this year. Flashes above-average raw strength with solid accuracy on throws. Doesn’t project for plus arm and still has to fine tune throwing mechanics. Grade – 50/50
Fielding: Worked very hard to improve defense this season. Has limited chance to stick in CF, more likely corner OF. Takes solid routes and gets good reads off the bat. Won’t be a defensive weapon but should be a solid all-around defender. Grade – 40/50
Speed: Average runner down the line. Aggressive stroke doesn’t let him get out of the box easily and can hamper his home-to-first times. Shows a tick better speed once underway in the outfield. Should stick as an average runner long term. Grade – 50/50
Summation: Continues to improve entire game. Absolutely incredible offensive ceiling. Potential batting champion with 25-30 home runs a year. Could be a superstar caliber number three hitter on a championship level club. May be best offensive prospect in the minor leagues. Has minimal CF profile but should be an average defender on either corner. Instincts are improving in all facets of the game. High character/good makeup type. Though he can contribute in all phases, the bat will carry him and could be elite. Potential superstar.
Relative Risk: Moderate. Still very young but has adjusted extremely well and is incredibly gifted.
Future: Wouldn’t be overwhelmed hitting in the big leagues right now but will likely spend the rest of the year in Double-A with a chance at Triple-A late in the year. Should make MLB debut in 2013 and may be the team’s best hitter by the end of 2014.
Being a Cards fan I couldn’t be any more excited at the thought of Oscar Taveras bringing his big bat to the Majors. Alongside some of the other talented prospects emerging from the Cardinals farm system the future looks extremely bright for the Redbirds for a good few years to come!!
You can pick up a number of Oscar Taveras cards across last years Bowman brands (along with Topps Heritage Minors and Topps Debut) but his main autographed Chrome prospect card can be found in 2012 Bowman (pictured above) and it’s already escalating in price, with non-refractor and non-graded versions of the card shifting in the three figure range! That’s some pretty hefty coin for such a young player, but such is the excitement that Oscar Taveras generates in the prospect card market. Coming off the back of a strong showing in the Dominican Winter League hasn’t hurt his card values either!!
The ceiling for Taveras’ cards, along with his potential on the Baseball diamond, is almost without limit! And it’s with young players like him that the future of a successful card market will either stand or fall.
… Oh, did I mention he plays for the Cardinals??? Yes!!!!