The St. Louis Cardinals are basking in the sunlight of spring training in Florida. The spring atmosphere is ripe with buzz surrounding prospects throughout the organization. One of the organization's top prospects, Oscar Taveras, has been noticeably absent from the lineup thus far.
Taveras entered 2013 with all the makings of a player that would find himself in the major leagues before season's end. He was a fantastic hitter who was playing his way through the minor league system. Most projected his arrival to be a September call-up, at the very least.
Baseball does not always follow the logical path, however. Taveras sustained the first major injury of his young career, an ankle injury that would eventually require surgery to repair. The young man, who has just reached the ripe age of 22, would spend a good portion of the 2013 season on the disabled list.
As the 2014 preseason got underway, Taveras reported to camp with a clean bill of health from the team doctors and was cleared to assume baseball activities. As he did just that, reports surfaced that he was still favoring his ankle. As time as passed, it has become apparent that there is no health concern with the outfielder. Bernie Miklasz of STLtoday.com points this out in his article on the subject:
Physically, there is technically nothing wrong with Taveras. But he’s reluctant to let loose and go full speed. If there’s pain, it’s in his head. He’s apparently fearful of derailing his career by re-injuring the joint, and has favored the right leg while running the bases.
The Cardinals have grown impatient, according to Miklasz, and want the young prospect to push himself. The player is reluctant to do so. This all starts to create a volatile situation between the team and a player that, according to Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com, has been named the third-best prospect in baseball.
The situation can go a few different ways from here. Taveras could come around, show a willingness to work hard this season and become the cornerstone the team expects. He could continue to refuse to follow through with what his coaches ask him to do and run the risk of being labeled with the dreaded "clubhouse cancer" tag that plagues so many careers.
Taveras is at a key point in his development right now. He has the tools to be a significant part of the Cardinals' future plans. He has the opportunity to prove he has the attitude to be that key player for the organization.
The future of his career is completely in his control.