The St. Louis Cardinals have one of the top farm systems in baseball and the crown jewel of the farm system is Oscar Tavares, who many rank as one of the top two position players in the minor leagues.
So how soon should the fans at Busch Stadium expect to see the 20-year old left-handed power-hitting outfielder?
I think they won’t have to wait that much longer to see Tavares in the big leagues, who ESPN senior baseball analyst Keith Law compares to Vladimir Guerrero, patrolling the outfield in St. Louis, and it should happen this summer.
Tavares finished his 2012 season with the AA team in Springfield and in 124 minor league games hit .321 with 23 home runs, 94 RBI and a .572 slugging percentage. As impressive as those numbers are for Tavares the number that sticks out the most are his strikeout totals. He only struck out 56 times in 477 at bats last season after shortening up his swing.
He can hit anything the pitcher offers up and his strike zone is the proverbial nose-to-toes range and that is where the comparison to Guerrero is spot on. Both players were allergic to drawing a base on balls and both never saw a pitch they didn’t think they could drive 400-feet.
The Cardinals can afford to be patient with Tavares as I think they should to delay his arbitration clock from starting and also to give him more seasoning at AAA. When he does get called up, most likely in June, he can play center field flanked by Matt Holliday in left and Carlos Beltran in right and with Beltran scheduled to become a free agent after this season, likely shifts over to right field to replace the veteran in 2014.
Tavares has the potential to be a No. 3 hitter in the lineup and hit above .300 with 30 home runs and drive in 100 a year while stealing 15-20 bags a year while playing a gold-glove caliber defense in right field.
The Cardinals will get a glimpse of their future in Spring Training and Tavares will make it very difficult for the team to send him back to the minors even for a few months before he makes his long awaited big league debut.
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