Oscar Taveras: The best hitter in the minor leagues.
While the 2013 season won’t feature the arrival of an outfield prospect of the same ilk as Mike Trout or Bryce Harper, there’s still plenty to look forward to with Oscar Taveras and Wil Myers.
Ranked as Prospect Pipeline’s Nos. 3 and 4 prospects, respectively, both players are coming off a career-best year in the high minors and appear poised to make an impact in the major leagues at some point this season.
However, despite the fact that they’re only separated by one spot in the rankings, Taveras’s hit tool will give him the chance to be a substantially better player than Myers—the kind an organization can build around.
Coming off an injury-plagued 2011 campaign, Myers, 22, emerged as arguably the most productive hitter in the minor leagues last season by batting .314/.387/.600 with 37 home runs in 134 games between Double-A Northwest Arkansas and Triple-A Omaha. However, despite his rapid ascension through the upper levels of the their farm system, the Royals decided to retain their young outfielder in the minor leagues for both developmental and financial reasons.
Even though Myers was expected to be the organization’s next great homegrown hitter along the same lines as Billy Butler, Alex Gordon, Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas, improving the major league roster took priority over the offseason, as the Royals ultimately dealt the young outfielder—as well as three additional prospects—to the Rays in exchange for James Shields and Wade Davis.
Regardless of his organization, Myers’ potential as a middle-of-the-order run-producer stems from his plus raw power to all fields.
In previous seasons, he employed a more reserved approach; he still showcased plenty of power, but his selectiveness undermined its utility. In 2012, though, Myers finally showed the ability to cut it loose at the plate. A 6’3” right-handed hitter, the 22-year-old drops the barrel on the ball as well as any prospect in the game. Using his strong hands and quick wrists, Myers consistently achieves a favorable point of contact, while his extension and lift allow him to drive the ball to all fields with backspin carry.
However, his power-oriented approach also detracts from the potential of his hit tool. Granted that he faced more advanced competition at Double-A and Triple-A, but the outfielder posted a career-high 23.7-percent strikeout rate. So, while his power is expected to translate in the major leagues, the development of Myers’ hit tool will depend on the adjustments he makes moving forward.
On the other hand, Oscar Taveras already possesses both the bat and approach to be successful in the major leagues, and, in general, has the potential to be a truly special hitter.
Making an aggressive jump from Low-A to Double-A prior to the 2012 season, Taveras established himself as the best pure hitter in the minor leagues by batting .321/.380/.572 as a 20-year-old. The left-handed-hitting outfielder also began to tap into his raw power, as nearly 44 percent of his hits were for extra bases, including a career-high 23 home runs.
Taveras employs a powerful yet balanced swing that enables him to keep the bat head in the zone for an unusually long period of time without sacrificing power. However, it’s his unparalleled hand-eye coordination and bat-to-ball ability that separate him from other highly regarded young hitters like Myers. In addition to his knack for consistent, loud contact, Taveras’s feel for driving the ball to the opposite field is already more advanced than a lot of major leaguers' and only stands to improve.
But it’s not just that; Taveras simply hits everything. Fastballs, breaking balls, offspeed, same-side pitching, pitcher’s pitches—you name it and Taveras can barrel it. And while his free-swinging approach may be challenged to an extent in the major leagues, he'll always make enough contact to the point where strikeouts will never be an issue.
While Myers is likely to post near star-level power numbers in his prime, Taveras has the potential to be one of the game’s best players, not to mention the driving force behind the Cardinals’ offense for many years to come.