Carlos Beltran hasn’t returned to the St. Louis Cardinals lineup since hurting his right pinky toe prior to the start of the World Baseball Classic.
Now before you scoff at his ailment, keep in mind that Beltran is a right-handed hitter. When swinging, it requires a turn of the right foot and that involves a bit of stability from the pinky toe.
Beltran is in his 15th Major League Baseball season and he played in at least 140 games in 11 of those seasons. Injuries hit Beltran in 2009 and 2010 but he’s been relatively healthy ever since. However, given his age, it isn’t a stretch to think Beltran could be prone to something more serious than a toe injury this season.
Lets play a game of ‘what if’ and assume that he will.
Beltran is the primary right fielder for St. Louis, so the two logical choices for a replacement would be Shane Robinson and Oscar Taveras. The Cardinals have a few other players on the roster who are able to play the outfield, but in Taveras’ case, it could be an opportunity the best hitting prospect in the minor leagues has been waiting for.
I needn’t remind you of the benefits the Anaheim Angels reaped upon promoting Mike Trout in 2012.
Robinson makes the most sense especially if the injury is short term. He’s taken the spring by storm for the Cardinals, leading in several offensive categories. Whether or not that success carries over to the regular season will remain to be seen, but Robinson looks like a man on a mission. Defensively, Robinson is more accustomed to center field but has played very well in right when needed (68 career innings).
It might be now or never for Robinson, who has been bouncing around the minor leagues since 2006.
For Taveras, who has played decent this spring, it would be better to bring him up only if Beltran is felled by a long-term trip to the DL. St. Louis needs to be sure that they aren’t putting Taveras in a situation where he’d eventually be resigned to a bench role — or worse, be sent back to Triple-A.
And while there is no reason to think that Matt Holliday will suffer an injury this season (he’s been had one season with less than 600 at-bats in the past five years), it would be more likely that center fielder Jon Jay has a down year. That being the case, it would stand to reason — as long as Taveras lives up to his potential — he could take over for Jay should Beltran return early from injury.
So speaking from a strickly fictitious scenario where Beltran becomes injured, it would be best to insert Robinson in his place. Yes, Taveras is a much better player and seems to be MLB-ready, but its best to bring him up when a permanent replacement is required — ie. an under-performing player or a season-ending injury.
I’m as excited as anyone to get Taveras up, but Robinson might be the best option until a regular position opens up.