The Legend of Oscar Taveras

So, you're probably a Cardinal fan. I mean, why would you be reading a sports column in a St. Louis paper if you weren't, right? (I'm aware of just how gross an oversimplification I'm going with right here, but hey, broad strokes are the only ones I know how to take.) 

You probably have a whole closet full of jerseys, sherseys (any day I can link to Urban Dictionary and not have the entry contain the words anal/orifice/mouth/punch in some combination is a good day), and the rarely-seen sweaterseys. Just in case you're unfamiliar with that last one, it's a combination sweater/jersey, and I say rarely-seen because they tend to exist only in my head. You probably have an empty spot in your closet where all of those #5 jerseys used to hang, too, right? Of course you do. 

Well, seeing as how you're such a big Cards fan, I'm going to just go ahead and tell you right now you'll probably want to start saving your nickels (people still use nickels, right?), to buy yourself an Oscar Taveras jersey. 'Cause he just might be pretty good at this whole baseball thing. 
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Hopefully they'll get his name right next time. 

You've probably heard the name Taveras before. Actually, you might know him better by the name Minor League Guy, which as pseudonyms go doesn't exactly match up to Big Baby Jesus, but what do you expect from Fox Sports Midwest

Can I just take a moment to say how sad it is that the regional sports network who makes the vast majority of their money off of Cardinal games couldn't be bothered to actually recognize the organization's top position prospect? I kind of let this story go at the time -- I was still worrying more about the Blues at the time and just failed to get to it, but seriously. I mean, random minor leaguer gets into a game, sure, you might not know who the dude is offhand. But at least pay attention to, say, the five biggest prospects and be able to pick them out of a lineup, hmm? The bar isn't set real high, I suppose. Eh, moving on...

Anyhow, back to Taveras himself: he's the top position player prospect in the Cardinal system currently, and may very well be the number one guy overall. Shelby Miller is still closer to the big leagues (Triple A vs Double A, where Taveras is playing as of today), but Shelby is having a very up and down season (not to mention a weird offseason that saw him go all Kate Moss on everyone), and Taveras is beating up on Texas League pitching as a teenager. At the moment, I would probably have to give the edge to Oscar. 

So why am I bringing up this baseball-destroying manchild right now? Well, because on Monday night, Taveras had one of the best nights at the plate you're ever going to see, then followed it up with another two-hit night (including his second home run in the past two games), last night in Tulsa. 

On Monday night, Taveras went 5-for-5 with a walk, a double, and a home run. The long ball was his 11th of the season, and broke a near month-long homerless drought. That's right, folks; he hadn't hit a homer since the 12th of May and still had 10 already for the season. He actually started out the year like an absolute house on fire, but seemed to go cold following a collision with infielder Jose Garcia in early May. Taveras didn't really miss any time with what the club termed a bruised knee, but the sudden drop in production seemed precipitous enough to at least suggest the injury may have lingered a bit. 

Hopefully that's all over now, though, and Taveras can get back to crushing baseballs and dancing his way through the dreams of Cardinal fans. Despite being one of the very youngest players in the Texas League (he turns 20 in 12 days, which is incredibly young for Double A), he ranks among the league leaders in most offensive categories. (And that's after "struggling" for the past three and a half-ish weeks.) He's currently hitting .318/.370/.588 for the season, with 12 homers, 15 doubles, 3 triples, and just 29 strikeouts in 230 plate appearances. He doesn't walk nearly as often as you would like to see -- just a 7.6% BB rate on the year -- but when you can apparently hit pretty much everything pitchers throw at you it's hard to convince a guy to take a pitch now and again. 

The always-excellent Kary Booher had both a game story and some extra points to make about the game Monday night; I suggest you check them out. 

And I'll make the suggestion about saving your nickels for a Taveras jersey again. Playing at Double A Springfield, Oscar is still technically two steps away from the big leagues, but a) lots of teams use their Triple A clubs less for development and more for stashing reinforcements these days, and b) with the rate players have been dropping here in St. Louis over the past month, an Adron Chambers hammy pull just might be the only thing standing between Taveras and the top of the depth chart. We'll see Oscar in September, to be sure; I don't think he'll show up before then, but this season isn't going at all the way I thought it would after the first couple weeks. 
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