Oscar Taveras Scouting Report (2014)
With a .322/.378/.544 triple slash line in Triple-A, elite prospect Oscar Taveras is in the midst of a final push to St. Louis. Prospect followers clamor for him to be handed the center field job, but it’s not a realistic outcome for his skill set. Inevitably, Taveras will have to displace an incumbent in left or right field, or force the Cardinals to move Matt Adams. With Matt Holliday and Allen Craig under long terms deals and “Big City” slugging at first base, a path to playing time is difficult to navigate. Does Taveras have enough bat to force St. Louis’ hand?
Listed at 6-foot-2, 200 pounds, Oscar Taveras is fully developed physically. his frame is thick and muscular — especially through the hips. Strength through his core helps generate torque, resulting in a powerful swing with plus bat speed. But while present size helps the offensive profile, it saps him of athleticism. This hurts Taveras’ projection in the areas of speed and defense. The body reminded me of Yasiel Puig, scouted in Double-A, only the Dodgers outfielder is a much better athlete. Where Puig had five tool possibilities, Taveras must mash to succeed at the MLB level.
Oscar Taveras is hyper aggressive. The left-handed hitter attacked the first fastball thrown to him throughout the two-game sample. Yes, Taveras barreled everything, but blasting a 300 foot fly ball to left field after tomahawking a fastball a foot outside and at eye level isn’t ideal. This has been his M.O. since breaking out in Double-A, but was worrisome in person. That is, until the 21-year old began to settle in during game two.
After seven or eight plate appearances watching Oscar Tavaras flail wildly, he began working counts and fouling off difficult pitches. In one at bat, he worked a full count off of a Nashville Sounds reliever after falling behind. In working the at bat, he fouled off multiple pitches with the bases loaded. At one point, I remember thinking, “Oscar Taveras is either going to hit the ball or walk because this pitcher doesn’t have the stuff to make him swing and miss.” Behind home plate, it was easy to see Taveras had the upper hand no matter what the count. Caught out front on a change-up, he muscled a single to right-center field off of his front foot, driving in two.
It’s easy to become enamored with his simple set up and compact swing mechanics. He can present as a bit of a shoulder swinger, but few hitting prospects have the bat speed to let the ball travel as deep as Taveras does. This is evident in the slow motion swing caught on video where Taveras keeps his hands inside the baseball, pounding an inside fastball up the middle.
Oscar Taveras’ power is not as impressive as his hit tool, but the ball still explodes off of his bat barrel. The loud cracks can be heard throughout the stadium — even when he doesn’t square up a pitch well. One thing prospect followers fail to realize is just how much elite contact skills help the power tool play up. If/when Taveras tightens his strike zone, more consistent, hard contact will yield better power production.
On defense, Taveras played both right and left field. He appeared more comfortable in left, struggling with route running and drifting to fly balls. His arm strength also presented as well below average. In game two, a ground ball single to left field saw Taveras charge the ball using short, choppy steps. He came up firing, but threw a weak, two hopper from short left field, allowing the runner to score easily. He’s a true left fielder.
Oscar Taveras is also a below average runner and will slow down with age. Off of the video, a 4.55 from home-to-first was pulled, but he stopped running hard a few steps from first base. If one gives Taveras the benefit of the doubt and subtracts two tenths of a second for pulling up, he’s still a 35 runner on the 20/80 scale.
For Taveras to be successful at the MLB level, he doesn’t have to walk at a league average rate and revamp his offensive approach. With elite contact skills, minor improvements in the area of pitch selection will pay huge dividends. The left-handed hitter is going to punish baseballs at the Major League level, but a free swinging Tavares may be exposed in his first taste of big league pitching. If opposing pitchers aren’t forced to throw strikes, they won’t, and Taveras will be forced to adjust. However, the Cardinals top prospect showed the ability to be selective in Nashville and has hit since. If the finishing touches are being added in Memphis, an Oscar Taveras debut won’t be far behind.
Tool Present Future Projected Role Star level left fielder on first division team. Bat first player. Hitting Ability 55 65 Power 50 60 Speed 35 25 Fielding Ability 40 35 Arm 35 35
Owning Oscar Taveras
Fantasy baseball owners love seeing the glass half full. Because the Cardinals need a center fielder, the assumption is Taveras will receive a shot because he’s the best bat on the farm. This simply isn’t true. An injury or trade will need to happen for the outfielder to debut in a corner. Let the waiting game begin.. Once promoted, Taveras will hit. In 5×5 leagues, he’ll be most valuable due to the sheer number of plate appearances Taveras will accumulate over the season. Just remember, the top players in fantasy baseball have the ability to steal double-digit bases. Does Oscar Taveras? I don’t think so.
30 May 2014 / Mike Newman /
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