Oscar Taveras, who was once considered the top prospect in baseball and drew Albert Pujols comparisons from St. Louis Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak, certainly is behind schedule in his quest to become a successful big-leaguer. But after a rough spring training which saw him be optioned to minor league camp much earlier than expected, Taveras has begun the season on a good note with the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds.
Through his first 64 at-bats, Taveras is hitting .297. While he’s only had four doubles thus far, he already has three homers, which is just two away from eclipsing his disappointing 2013 total. It’s a good sign for Taveras, who has not experienced an exceptional amount of success over the past year.
While he is playing well, there are a few suspect things to note about the beginning of Taveras’s season. First of all, he’s spent all his time defensively at the corner outfield positions, playing nine games in left field and seven in right. This is a bit of a change for Taveras, who has always been seen as an average defender but nevertheless has spent 211 of his first 360 professional games in center field. This probably negates an immediate opportunity for a call-up if regular starter Peter Bourjos, who is hitting .190 to start the year, continues to struggle.
Secondly, Taveras has actually been the least impressive member of the Redbirds’ regular outfield rotation so far. Memphis’s other three primary outfielders, Joey Butler, Randal Grichuk, and Stephen Piscotty, are hitting .419, .338, and .317 so far. Butler and Grichuk, like Taveras, also have three homers. With Grichuk having the ability to play center and also being on the 40-man roster, he would seem to be the more attractive option for a call-up should the Cardinals need an outfielder soon.
Even though Taveras hasn’t exactly separated himself from the crowd to start the year, just the fact that he is playing regularly and hitting well has to be considered a positive. If the Cardinals still have as much faith in him as they did a year ago, they should be excited about the 21-year-old’s future.