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Oscar Taveras: Starting right fielder out of spring training?

Ray takes a look at what to expect from Cardinals outfield prospect should he win the right field job out of spring training.


The Cardinals have more than their fair share of starting pitchers, don't they? They have Adam Wainwright, one of the best pitchers in the game, Shelby Miller, Lance Lynn, Michael Wacha, Joe Kelly, Carlos Martinez, and Jaime Garcia. That is some depth at starting pitcher. But, they also have some depth in the outfield. The guys at Viva El Birdos, SB Nations' Cardinals fan site, wrote about their outfield depth recently, and today I am going to discuss the possibility of Oscar Taveras winning an outfield job out of spring training and what we can expect from him in 2014.

Consider they just lost Carlos Beltran to free agency. They have Matt Holliday in left field, one of the most consistent fantasy hitters around; recently acquired Peter Bourjos in center field, and one of Allen Craig or Taveras in right field. I personally think Taveras will start the season in AAA, before a June call up. There is a chance that he gets the call sooner, should he have a very good spring, and showing his ankle is 100% healthy after ankle surgery that ended his 2013 season. Bourjos in center field is a huge upgrade defensively for the Cardinals, but should they struggle offensively to start the 2014 season, the call to promote Taveras and place him in center field could get loud. It is likely that Taveras sees some time in center field in AAA just in case.

So, what can we expect from Oscar Taveras in 2014? Here is what ZIPS, courtesy of FanGraphs, projects for him in the runs, home runs, RBI and stolen base categories:

Player B Age PO PA R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS
Yadier Molina R 31 C 546 54 147 31 0 13 73 6 3
Matt Carpenter L 28 3B 615 79 146 36 5 10 69 4 3
Matt Holliday R 34 LF 577 79 140 30 2 21 85 5 2
Jhonny Peralta R 32 SS 520 49 127 29 2 12 64 2 2
Peter Bourjos R 27 CF 385 54 90 14 8 9 41 12 3
Kolten Wong L 23 2B 555 60 136 22 6 8 49 19 5
Jon Jay L 29 CF 570 64 137 25 3 7 54 12 6
Oscar Taveras L 22 CF 388 45 103 23 4 9 50 7 1

And here is ZIPS projection for his triple slash line and plate discipline:

Yadier Molina 546 6.4% 10.1% .140 .307 .293 .342 .433 .334
Oscar Taveras 388 5.7% 12.4% .162 .308 .287 .331 .448 .33

ZIPS thinks he will be the Cardinals second best hitter behind Yadier Molina, in terms of batting average, hitting .298-.331-.448 with 9 HRs, 45 runs, 50 RBI and 7 stolen bases in 388 plate appearances. That sounds about right if the Cardinals decide to start him in AAA out of spring training.

Ron Shandler's Baseball Forecaster projects Taveras to hit .275-.312-.446 with 9 HRs, 33 runs, 40 RBI and 5 stolen bases in 266 at bats. Want an optimistic projection? Should he play every day out of spring training, the Forecaster thinks he can duplicate his 2012 season in the minors, putting up a major league equivalent line of .290-.338-.492 with 17 HRs, 67 runs, 76 RBI and 8 stolen bases in 477 at bats. Not too shabby for a 22 year old.

Here are a few more projections, courtesy of Steamer and Oliver:

Steamer: .283-.330-.437 with 4 HRs, 19 runs, 20 RBI, 3 stolen bases in 169 plate appearances

Oliver: .285-.327-.462 with 18 HRs, 75 runs, 79 RBI and 10 stolen bases in 600 plate appearances

Steamer is less optimistic on Taveras, projection about two months worth of plate appearances, while Oliver is very optimistic, projecting a full season of plate appearances.

One thing we do know, Taveras is going to hit when he gets called up with all four forecasts projecting him to hit in the .275 - .285 range, with average power, and a few stolen bases to boot.

Either way, he will play every day when he is called up. I am not sure what will be the reason for his call up, but it could range from the Cardinals wanting more offense from center field, to an injury to Allen Craig, to ineffectiveness from first baseman Matt Adams, who struggles vs lefties.