Oscar Taveras lines a ball in a spring training game against Miami, Feb. 28.
The coming celebration for Oscar Taveras’ promotion to the big leagues will be historic in St. Louis.
Last October, Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak went even further in evaluating Taveras by saying he is “the most prolific hitter I’ve seen in this organization since, probably, Albert [Pujols],” he said, courtesy of MLB.com.
But Taveras doesn’t look much into comparisons. He quietly goes about his business.
“I know that people compare me to other players, but I don’t pay much attention to it,” Taveras said, with catcher Tony Cruz translating, courtesy of MLB.com. “I just go out there and play my game aggressively.”
At 6’2’’, 180 pounds, Taveras doesn’t fit the prototypical left-handed power hitter capable of making a big splash.
Oh, how size undermines overall talent.
Just watch him during batting practice—his smooth swing, flawless mechanics and ability to drive the ball to all directions.
'It just doesn’t look like there’s a pitch that shows up that he’s not prepared to hit,' Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said, courtesy of MLB.com. 'As soon as he walks into the box, he has a presence. Just watching his timing and recognition—he has something that you really can’t teach.'
First-year hitting coach John Mabry said Taveras possesses everything necessary to become a star in the big leagues:
'I’ve seen enough of him to know that he’s a high-quality hitter,' Mabry said, courtesy of MLB.com. 'Mechanically and fundamentally, he has a pretty swing. He does things naturally. He has the ability to square the ball up. He has quick hands, everything is fluid. He’s got all the equipment to succeed.'
Taveras is just 20 years old, and played his first professional season at 17. He spent last season at the Cardinals’ Double-A Springfield affiliate, where he earned Most Valuable Player of the Texas League’s regular season, posting a .321 mark with 23 home runs and 94 RBI. He was also named MVP of the Texas League All-Star Game.
A native of Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Taveras is a superstar waiting to be unleashed.
In his first at-bat of spring training—Feb. 28 against Miami—Taveras came to the plate with the bases juiced and one out. Honing in on Marlins hurler Jacob Turner, Taveras waited patiently for his pitch. Down 1-2, Taveras choked up on the bat, and drove the next pitch over the right field fence for a grand slam, giving the Cardinals a 5-1 lead.
“Oscar stands out,” Matheny said, courtesy of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “It’s like he knows he’s close.”
Just how close?
For the immediate future, the Cardinals need Taveras as soon as possible.
Taveras is just a kid. He’s still extremely raw in terms of talent and ability. Certainly Mozeliak and Matheny want to be cautious when projecting the right time to give Taveras the green light.
That’s all understandable. It’s justifiable for Mozeliak and Matheny to closely monitor Taveras’ progress.
But the Cardinals are in dire need of Taveras, if not in the everyday lineup, then certainly off the bench.
By the looks of it, the Cardinals will enter 2013 with Matt Carpenter, Ty Wigginton, Shane Robinson, Adron Chambers, Ronny Cedeño and Tony Cruz on the bench.
Aside from Carpenter, the Cardinals lack a true pinch-hitter capable of coming off the bench in a late-game situation and delivering a clutch hit.
When serving as pinch-hitters last season, the aforementioned group combined to hit just .215 with 12 extra base hits, two home runs, 21 RBI, 17 walks and 52 strikeouts.
Would you rather have Wigginton or Taveras at the plate with the game on the line? I’ll go with the kid, instead of the aging veteran who hit .235 for Philadelphia last season.
Moreover, Taveras could spell injury-prone outfielders in Matt Holliday and Carlos Beltran. Holliday dealt with back and leg-related issues last season, while Beltran suffered knee soreness.
There’s also the fans—the ones who are fully devoted to their beloved team. Cardinals fans will more than likely be eager to watch their youngest player succeed at the highest level. That’s why they pay the big bucks for season tickets. That’s why they consistently fill the stands at Busch Stadium year in and year out.
The reasons why Taveras needs to be called up to begin the season are black and white. He provides the type of bat that could heavily impact a season. He’s the type of player that leaves teams foaming at the mouth.
The time for Taveras is now, and the Cardinals need to act upon it.
Cardinals fans were hung out to dry when Pujols walked. It's time for them to fall in love their youngest sensation.