Back in January, I asked if Oscar Taveras was underrated. The basic premise of that article was three-fold: (1) scouting reports undersold his actual production, (2) the high BABIP allowed for stat watchers to dismiss the batting line too casually and (3) Taveras is in a farm system with other great prospects who are higher up the food chain.
This past week, Taveras went on a bit of a hot streak and drug his 2012 season line over the 1.000 OPS mark. (It currently sits at .995 as of this morning.) There’s still a lot of time left in 2012 but it’s interesting to see how his work thus far looks like relative to those three items I wrote about in January.
1. Scouting reports undersold his actual production.
I have a particular antipathy toward the phrase “violent swing”, which came into significant use over the last year with regards to Taveras via Keith Law. The term is entirely uninformative and is even now being walked back with comments that indicate Law isn’t as concerned about the swing as Taveras continues to produce at a higher level.
Taveras has taken his game to a new level in one particular regard: power output. In January, I wrote:
Taveras hit better than any scouting report from the previous year would have suggested displaying great power, if not great home run power.
With a .198 ISO and just 8 homeruns, that was true in 2011. But Taveras was a veritable baby in the Midwest League. Now, a year later and two levels higher, still-teenager Taveras has already hit 7 homeruns and has a .313 ISO. The cautionary note here is that some of this increase in ISO is almost certainly park related.
2.The high BABIP allowed for stat watchers to dismiss the batting line too casually.
When you see someone hit .386, you know they’re lucky. That kind of batting average just doesn’t happen without fortune on your side in the modern era. And with a .440 BABIP, that was true of 2011 Oscar Taveras. What it ignored was that with a “normal” BABIP or closer to average, Taveras still should have been hitting around .327 with an OBP in the .380s. It was easy to say that Taveras was lucky without acknowledging that in a luck neutral setting, Taveras was still really good.
In 2012, Taveras is, essentially, showing us what a non BABIP lucky season looks like. With a far more tame .322 BABIP, Taveras is hitting for a .321 batting average. Amazing how that works, huh?
3. Taveras is in a farm system with other great prospects who are higher up the food chain.
This is just the nature of the Cardinals farm system right now. There’s a finite amount of prospect oxygen in the room and guys like Shelby Miller and Matt Adams have already laid claim to much of it. Jumping two levels of competition (as Matt Adams did the year before), has given Taveras a direct tap into that extra level of recognition. He goes from a prospect proving himself in the low minors to someone, not just passing, but excelling at the level that many consider the “weed out” for lesser prospects.
Expect to see more on Oscar Taveras this year. More glowing scouting reports. More high rankings on prospect lists. Taveras is an excellent prospect. Probably the best position prospect the Cardinals have had in the system since some guy they drafted back in 2005. Hopefully, this story turns out better than the last.