Oscar Tavares has quietly become one of baseball's best prospects and should join the scene in St. Louis this year.
Lost in the hype of Jurickson Profar, Dylan Bundy and Wil Myers is St. Louis Cardinals outfield prospect Oscar Taveras.
Actually, he's even lost in the hype of his teammate, fellow top-10 prospect Shelby Miller.
In 2012, Taveras exploded in Double-A, hitting .321 with 23 home runs and 94 RBI. His plate discipline for a 20-year-old is the most impressive thing about Taveras. In 531 plate appearances in 2012, he struck out 56 times and walked 42 times, posting a .380 OBP, combined with an above-average .323 BABIP (per FanGraphs) and .341 TAv (per Baseball Prospectus).
Right now, I have Taveras at a 50 in the arm, fielding and speed categories on an 80-point scale. Once he matures more and grows (currently listed at 6'2", 180 pounds) he'll lose range. His defense has improved from 2010 and 2011, but he won't stick in center and will likely take the role of a corner outfielder. I don't see him moving beyond a 50 here.
On the other hand, his hitting and power have massive upside. On the 80-point scale, I see Taveras as a 70 hitter. I mentioned his discipline is very good and his contact is off-the-charts good. He has great balance in his swing and, like Bryce Harper and Mike Trout, he swings hard. Based on his contact rate and discipline alone, he could be a solid player in the majors right now. I'm not sure how much better he can get, but I rate him as an 80 for future hitting with potential to hit .300 every year.
Power-wise I currently rate him as a 50. This is an early measure but a good one so far. I don't think his sudden output in 2012 was a fluke at all. I have him rated for more potential in this category—as a 25-30 home run hitter—reaching no more than a 70. I'll note, though, that I'm buying cautiously on his power that high right now. He can hit to all fields and should hit a ton of doubles in the process.
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.
When he gets there, he won't be overwhelmed and could be among the Cardinals' best hitters in 2014, batting alongside Matt Holliday, Yadier Molina and David Freese.
At this point, I don't see a lot of risk. He's young but has adjusted well and very fast. My main concern at this point would be if he sacrifices that amazing contact for power or doesn't mature physically as expected.