(BaseballStL) -- The Cardinals have a lot of decisions to make this offseason and it’s amazing to think how some of them could be influenced by their confidence in a 21-year old Dominican who was in A-ball just a couple years ago. But that’s what happens when someone has as much raw talent as OF Oscar Taveras.
Free agent Carlos Beltran is far from a sure thing to return to St. Louis next year given his age (he’ll be 37 next April) and his inability to play center field anymore. Absent the presence of a guy like Taveras - who has hit extraordinarily well at every level - maybe the Cardinals would be more anxious to go sign Beltran. But GM John Mozeliak has made it clear with what the team has coming in the minor league system - primarily Taveras - he doesn’t feel the need to overextend himself and assume too much risk on an aging player.
The issue with Taveras now is how he comes back from an ankle injury this year that cost him the vast majority of the season. The 6’2” 200 lb outfielder played in just 46 games for AAA-Memphis and got just 173 at-bats.
“From a talent standpoint, most would agree when he played he played very well,” Mozeliak said. “I don’t think it’s a major setback because of the injury. I would say the biggest negative was from a defensive standpoint. When you think about him trying to play center field he didn’t get a lot of reps that we had hoped for. But from an offensive standpoint I think he’s fine. I think he can step in and contribute. The big question is where he can play defensively and how confident are we with him in center.”
That’s the key right now for Taveras. Can he play center field? He has played it throughout his minor league career but that doesn’t mean he’s good enough to be trusted at that spot in the majors on an everyday basis. Should he need to move to right or left field, not only does that create more of a need in center, but it also makes Beltran even more expendable because there just wouldn’t be enough at-bats for him.
Evaluation is an issue, defensively at least. Health, however, is not.
“From a rehab standpoint everything is going well. He’s progressed out of the boot and continues to make positive advances. No one has given me any indication that spring training is in jeopardy so I feel pretty good about that,” Mozeliak said.
Taveras hit .306 for Memphis last year with a .341 on-base percentage. He hit five home runs and had 12 doubles. That is not too far off from his monster year in AA-Springfield the year before when he hit .321 with a .380 OBP to go along with 23 home runs and 94 RBIs.