Name: Oscar Taveras
Notable 2011 Stats: .386/.444/.584 with 27 2B, 5 3B, 8 HR, 52/32 K/BB, and 1-for-5 SB in 78 games with Quad Cities (A)
Why He’s This High: Taveras’ stats jump off the page at you: any time somebody can maintain a .386 batting average over 78 games, you should pay attention. Moreover, Taveras didn’t even turn 19 until June, so he was one of the youngest players at his level.
Crushing the ball wasn’t new to the outfielder, as he hit .327/.367/.531 in Rookie ball in 2010. Clearly, he’s a very advanced hitter for his age.
Taveras’ offensive approach is somewhat similar so Dustin Pedroia‘s, in that he’s a wiry player with excellent hand-eye coordination who is able to generate more power than you’d think because he can take huge swings at the ball without sacrificing contact. Currently, he’s geared toward line-drive power, and his 27 doubles and .440 BABIP indicate that he ripped a ton of liners in 2011. He still has room to grow into his 6’2″ frame and could be a 15-25 HR hitter as he matures–remember, he hit eight in just 78 games, so he’d likely have been near 15 over a full minor league season already.
Taveras isn’t a burner, and while he won’t stick in center field, he should be a solid defender in right field. He has a solid arm.
Why He’s This Low: There’s some concern over the legitimacy of Taveras’ prospectdom. Nobody will argue he has a poor approach for his age, or that he doesn’t have a knack for hard contact, but it’s easy to look at a .440 BABIP from a sabermetric perspective and scream “regression!” Of course, there will be regression from that level, but the question is how much–will he regress to merely the .370 BABIP of 2010, or further?
As a corner guy without premium power or speed, Taveras will need that batting average to stay high to profile as an All-Star level player. Scouts have some concerns as to how well his titanic hacks will work against more nuanced, advanced pitchers, although he’s plenty young enough to adapt.
Conclusions: It’s tough to expect Taveras to live up to someone like Pedroia, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see him become a similar sort of hitter, with the obvious disadvantage that he plays an easier defensive position. He still has some questions to answer, but he’s extraordinarily accomplished for his age, and a healthy and productive 2012 would go a long way toward eliminating any of the lingering doubts about his potential.
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