So all it took was an injury? We should have turned spants loose on someone months ago:
Oscar Taveras time about to begin in StL. Word from a source in Memphis is that he is on his way to the majors. #STLCards STLCards— Rob Rains (@RobRains) May 31, 2014
The news broke last night right around the time Adam Wainwright was getting shelled by the best team in baseball. Rains has a full write-up on the move with quotes from both Mozeliak and Matheny regarding the promotion. I found this particular one to be the most revealing:
"I just felt like we can’t play this weekend short," said general manager John Mozeliak. "More importantly when you start looking at sort of what having that AL opportunity can do for us, it just made sense two ways. One, let Matt Adams heal and now this is an opportunity to give Oscar some playing time and not have to worry about sort of the balance of power or try to figure out who’s playing and who’s not."
That really sheds a lot of light on the roster foibles Mozeliak has faced so far this season, regarding the triumvirate of Craig, Adams, and a potential Oscar Taveras call up. That should tell you all you need to know about how good they think Oscar Taveras is: The front office was legitimately worried that Taveras was going to come up, go "Puig on the League", and create a lot of issues with getting both Craig and Adams enough PA's. That likely would have turned Craig into some sort of platoon player if not a straight platoon with Adams, and his last 100 PA's or so are indicative of why that would be a really terrible move.
Joe covered the potential playing time machinations involving Taveras back at the beginning of May, where his playing time would have come mostly from displacing two more Cardinals, centerfielders Peter Bourjos and Jon Jay. In the current scenario, with Matt Adams going on the Disabled List and Allen Craig's suddenly hot bat moving to first base full time for a couple of weeks, the Cardinals can afford to stick Taveras in the OF full time for the next 15 days and see what's going to happen -- which is exactly what Mozeliak is saying in the above quote.
One thing that wasn't mentioned by Mozeliak was the return of Randal Grichuk to the big leagues just a day earlier, optioning Shane Robinson out to Memphis to make the requisite room on the active roster. Is it strange that the team pulled up Grichuk one day only to promote Oscar Taveras around 12 hours later?
In a word? Maybe. But how we analyze these two moves happening within a half day of one another completely depends on what we know (or don't know) about Matt Adams health.
In my view, the team clearly thought that Adams was going to be day-to-day with his calf injury and that pulling up Grichuk made more sense because they could use him to fill the gap and then put him back on the bench in a pinch hitting role, giving them more pop on the bench than Robinson ever could, when Adams returned on Saturday or Sunday. At that point, Grichuk (as speculated by numerous VEB folk) would likely have been the one to stay on the roster for the AL road trip starting on June 4th, mostly playing right field while Adams, Craig, and Holliday each took a turn in the DH role.
Once it was determined that Adams was DL bound (and possibly there for quite a while, as Joe pointed out on Twitter yesterday), that lifts both the roster crunch of the 25 man as well as opens up an opportunity for someone to play every day for at least 2 weeks and possibly longer. The argument could be made that it would have made sense to bring Taveras up initially anyway, and it's a good one. But it's easy to see how Adams' health was the determining factor for the club and why two moves were made on consecutive days rather than one -- all in all a pretty defensible position.
So what can we expect from Oscar Taveras? Well, for one, he's going to play right away, so you can stop the public flogging of Mike Matheny before it even gets started:
"Oscar’s gonna get an opportunity–we’re gonna see what he can do," said manager Mike Matheny. "I think everybody should be excited; I know he is. He’s been waiting for this for awhile. There’s been a lot of people anticipating him getting here. Hopefully, we can limit the distractions for him to where he just goes and plays the game, that’s always a challenge for us."
What can he do? Well, he was ranked by most all of prospect-dom as the top bat in the minor leagues at the beginning of the season, with guys like George Springer ranked a good 15 spots behind him on most Top 100 lists. We've seen what Springer has done the last month and while I wouldn't expect that kind of home run power right off the bat from Taveras it wouldn't be completely out of the realm of possibility for him either.
In the Baseball Prospectus Futures Guide for 2014, Jason Parks has Taveras ranked as a potential 70 player for ceiling, a perennial All-Star type player, and grades his hit tool as an 80 and his power tool as a 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale. So, the potential is certainly there for a big break out with the bat in the coming days.
The VEB Community projected Taveras back in February and had him posting a .290/.332/.460 line in 250 PA's in 2014 as his 50th percentile projection. That seems...oddly realistic for a bunch of Cardinal homers like we are here at VEB, so much so that if this call up is for good, it's easy to see him eclipsing the plate appearances estimate with ease. Craig also wrote an excellent post on Taveras' plate discipline before spring training started -- it's definitely worth a re-read to get some idea of what to expect from Oscar in terms of approach in his first big league PA's this evening.
Currently, Taveras is hitting .325/.373/.524 for Memphis, with 7 home runs and a .199 ISO in 209 PA's playing mostly in the outfield corners with the occasional spot start in center field. That's a 132 wRC+ in what is traditionally a hitter's league, and with a strikeout rate of just 12.7%. He's a bat to ball hitter with plenty of power and those are the types of hitters that generally hit the ground running in the major leagues even at a young age.
So pop some popcorn and get the champagne ready: Oscar Taveras is coming to town, ladies and gents. That makes today's game against the Giants appointment television for Cardinal fans of all ages. Or, as Jason Parks put it on Twitter:
Dimmed lights, crisp Chardonnay, silk sheets, nude as a newborn, writing up the Taveras call-up---it doesn't get any better than this.— Jason Parks (@ProfessorParks) May 31, 2014