Feldman: Cards playing it smart with Oscar Taveras

Feldman: Cards playing it smart with Oscar Taveras

Feldman: Cards playing it smart with Oscar Taveras

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by Brian Feldman / BaseballStL

KMOV.com

Posted on February 9, 2013 at 3:12 PM

Updated Friday, Oct 25 at 12:36 AM

(BaseballStL) -- There are plenty of people out there, and rightfully so, who want to see super prospect Oscar Taveras sooner rather than later. I mean, here's a guy who GM John Mozeliak - someone that does not get publicly excited often - has said is the most prolific hitting prospect this organization has seen since Albert Pujols.  Really?  The general manager has invoked the name of one of the greatest hitters ever?
 
Before this kid ever steps on the field?
 
That tells you how good he can be.  First off, just look at his minor league stats.  His breakout season was in 2010 with Johnson City when he hit .322 with a .362 on-base percentage in just 211 at-bats.  That earned him a spot in low-A Quad Cities the following year where he just blew up.  How about a .386 average to go with a .444 on-base percentage?  
 
Ya.  That happened.
 
The one thing he did not have was power, though.  So, he made sure to add that to his game in 2012.  Taveras succeeded.  After skipping high-A Palm Beach for AA-Springfield last year, the Dominican Republic native hit .321 with a .380 OBP but also popped 23 home runs.  It was a season that added him among a short list of elite, impact prospects in the game today.
 
Yet, despite the fact, by all accounts, that Taveras is nearly ready for a big league job, the Cardinals are being patient.  First of all, they've got Matt Holliday, Jon Jay and Carlos Beltran under contract.  It would be foolish to start Taveras' clock towards arbitration by having him elbow aside a more proven player right now.
 
Mozeliak has also said he believes a position player such as him needs to play every single day.  Not just once in a while.  So having Taveras come off the bench would not be the wisest thing to do.  The route the Cards are going to take this season with him is simple.  Barring injury, he'll likely begin the season in AAA-Memphis.  Few have any doubts that he'll dominate that level like he has just about every level prior.
 
If someone gets hurt, cough cough Carlos Beltran cough cough, a path will be opened up for him in 2013.  That would be a promotion out of necessity.  If no one does get hurt, that'd clear the way for Taveras to get yet another full season in the minors while Beltran plays out the final year of his contract.  He could then be the regular right fielder in 2014.
 
The point here is this.  Oscar Taveras has a chance to be so good, so prolific, that you want to wait as long as possible before starting his clock.  The sooner he's up, the sooner he's a free agent.  And with the economics of the game, you never know what will happen if and when those major market teams on the coasts have an opportunity to throw the type of money at him the Cards simply cannot afford.
 
Wouldn't one more year of Albert have been nice?  Several years down the road we could be saying the same thing about Taveras.  Wouldn't one more year of him be nice?
 
Be patient, let him develop more while Beltran plays out his contract.  When the spot opens up - whether it's by injury or otherwise - the Oscar Taveras era will begin in earnest.

Don't forget, beginning on Tuesday we'll have full coverage of spring training from Jupiter, Florida.  I'll be there for the duration - yes, seven weeks - and will have articles, videos and pictures for you while the Cards get ready for the regular season.  It all starts on Tuesday.

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