How Oscar Taveras' Latest Injury Could Impact the Cardinals' NL Central Chase

Mike RosenbaumMLB Prospects Lead WriterJune 28, 2013

JUPITER, FL - FEBRUARY 28:  Oscar Taveras #87 of the St. Louis Cardinals hits a grand slam homerun in the first inning against the Miami Marlins at the Roger Dean Stadium on February 28, 2013 in Jupiter, Florida.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Chris Trotman/Getty Images

The St. Louis Cardinals have fired on all cylinders this season.

Headed into Friday’s game against the Oakland Athletics, the team is currently tied with the divisional-rival Pirates for the best record in baseball at 48-30.

However, while things have been going well for the organization at the major league level, their loaded farm system was dealt a blow on Tuesday when top prospect Oscar Taveras was placed on the seven-day disabled list with an ankle injury for the second time in as many months.

Taveras—who is widely regarded as the best pure hitter in the minor leagues and recently ranked as Prospect Pipeline’s No. 1 overall prospect—was originally placed on the disabled on May 11 after spraining his right ankle while attempting a stolen base for Triple-A Memphis. At the time of the injury, the 21-year-old outfielder was starting to heat up at the dish. Through 11 May games, he was batting .362/.392/.596 with five doubles and two home runs.

After being sidelined for nearly a month, Taveras returned on June 8 and posted an uncharacteristic .735 OPS with five-extra base hits over his next 15 games.

On Sunday, he was removed from Memphis’ game after aggravating the ankle injury while returning to second base on a pickoff attempt and was subsequently placed on the disabled list Tuesday evening.

Although it doesn’t seem to be serious and won’t jeopardize the remainder of his season, the lingering nature of Taveras’ injury has undoubtedly impacted his highly anticipated age-21 campaign. 

After hitting .321/.380/.572 with 23 home runs, 10 stolen bases and 94 RBI last year in 124 at-bats for Double-A Springfield, Taveras hasn’t had the insanely good season that everyone expected—he’s only been pretty good.

At the time of his return to the disabled list on Tuesday, he was batting .306/.341/.462 with 12 doubles, five home runs and 32 RBI through 46 games.

Luckily, production from Cardinals outfielders hasn’t been a problem this year. More importantly, both Carlos Beltran and Matt Holliday have remained healthy over the first half of the season. As a result, the organization can offer Taveras as much rest as he needs, as there’s currently no timetable for his return from the disabled list. 

Furthermore, the injury shouldn’t impact the outfielder’s trajectory this season. Unless there was an injury at the major league level, it was likely that Taveras would be kept in the minors for most of the year, with the chance to serve as a late-season call-up in September. And even though the length of his current stint on the disabled list is indefinite, he should still reach the major leagues later in the year and allow the Cardinals to rest both Beltran and Holliday over the final month of the season.