Despite the growing pleas for the St. Louis Cardinals to call up top prospect Oscar Taveras, it does not look like the 21-year-old will be arriving in the majors at any point in the near future. On Monday, manager Mike Matheny and general manager John Mozeliak downplayed the possibility of Taveras being called up soon, saying that they want him to get more experience playing center field and continue playing every day.
The frustrating part of that logic is that the organization isn’t even giving Taveras the chance to grow as a center fielder, playing him in the corners much more than center, where he has only received four starts this year. Randal Grichuk, who has since been promoted to the majors, served as the starter in center prior to his call up, which is acceptable considering his exceptional athleticism. But organizational player Thomas Pham and recently-demoted utility outfielder Shane Robinson have also played more games in center than Taveras has, which is completely inexcusable unless there are still injury concerns limiting Taveras’s exposure at the position.
While the Cardinals could be playing things cautiously since Taveras is recently recovered from an ankle injury that affected him for nearly a year, it would seem that if they really saw him as their future center fielder, they would actually give him playing time at the position in the minors. Taveras has been tearing the cover off the ball to start the year, hitting .312 with five homers, 22 RBI, and an .878 OPS. Considering that he has been putting up this type of offensive production on a consistent basis since 2010, one would think that Taveras is probably major-league ready at the plate. Unless he’s being held back due to the personality issues that he’s been rumored to have, Taveras’s last hurdle is likely proving himself defensively. Unfortunately, Taveras is not really being given a chance to do that, so unless things change he is probably going to have to wait for a corner outfielder, either Matt Holliday or Allen Craig, to get hurt. However, with those two being signed through 2017 and 2018, respectively, it would not seem that Taveras is going to get a long-term opportunity at one of those positions, or at the very least he will have to wait for Craig to move back to first base and replace Matt Adams.
Ultimately, the Cardinals are either going to have to divest themselves of Taveras in a trade or build up enough confidence in him to allow him to play center every day and overtake the platoon that currently exists between Grichuk, Peter Bourjos, and Jon Jay. It should be really interesting to see what happens with this curious case of a talented player being held back for no really obvious reason.