Jose Tabata wants his full-time job with the Pittsburgh Pirates back — for good.
And at this rate, it might not be very much longer before he earns it. With all of the ups and downs that the outfielder has had throughout his young career thus far, it would not be surprising if most folks did not know that Tabata is still just 24-years old, an age when many prospects are considered to be seasoned enough to finally make an impact in their first cups of tea in the big leagues.
Then again, when you break in to the highest level of professional baseball as a 21-year old with a 1.9 fWAR season and a .299/.346/.400 triple-slash, expectations tend to get raised for the followup.
Unfortunately, they weren’t expectations that Tabata were able to meet, as a combination of injuries and ineffectiveness over the last couple of seasons has left him with an uncertain spot with the team going into the 2013 season, with the team also looking towards Travis Snider as his main competitor.
Considering past precedent, You’d think that a strained oblique which cut off a .389/.436/556 tear that Tabata was on in May would have been enough as a death knell; but thanks to Snider being unable to capitalize on the opportunity (.171/.247/.229 slash line in June), that gave the injured Tabata and opening to really grab hold of the job in right field with a strong follow-up coming off the DL.
This time, instead of disappointing as he’d done in the past, he’s exceeded expectations with aplomb … at least in the small sample size that the Pirates have seen, anyway.
Including Sunday’s 2-for-3 performance that included a pair of doubles and a pair of walks in a losing effort for the Pirates, Tabata has simply caught fire since returning from the land of the injured, notching hits in four out of the five games, with three of those being of the multi-hit variety.
The one game in which he didn’t get a hit? He drew and walk and subsequently stole a base, so he’s really putting all of his dynamism on show here.
Most impressively, however, might be the fact that with three walks in 17 at-bats on the season, he’s already matched the three free passes he coaxed in 36 at-bats in May, and is just one short of the four out of 45 at-bats he received in April.
The most important thing for Tabata going forward will be to stay healthy, but as long as he can keep doing that and putting his doubles power-speed combo to good use, let’s just say that Snider and the bench will end up being pretty familiar with each other through the rest of the season as upstart Bucs make their playoff push.