While St. Louis Cardinals prospect Kolten Wong is receiving the headlines because of his selection to the Rising Stars game in the Arizona Fall League, his Double-A teammate from 2012 is having quite an offseason thus far himself.
Cardinals prospect Oscar Taveras is competing in the Dominican Winter League this offseason and is absolutely ripping the cover off the ball.
As of Sunday morning, Taveras was leading the Dominican Winter League in hitting, posting a .381 batting average in 11 games played.
The 20-year-old outfielder has two home runs, three RBI and a pair of stolen bases while helping Aguilas Cibaenas to an 8-6 record.
The Cardinals' top prospect and the second best outfield prospect in baseball according to MLB.com, Taveras continues to hit wherever he goes and is doing his best to fast-track himself to St. Louis.
Here is what scout Jason Parks of BaseballProspectus.com wrote about Taveras this summer:
Oscar Taveras has blossomed into one of the minors' purest hitters, with offensive projections that could make him a perennial All-Star at the major-league level.
His defensive game isn’t nearly as remarkable, but his routes and angles continue to improve, and he has logged time at all three outfield spots, which gives him some positional versatility.
Taveras’s offensive potential is the truth, and if he hits his projections he will be a superstar. He isn’t a finished product, but his time in the minors is nearing its conclusion, as the 19-year-old Dominican is more than holding his own in Double-A and should compete for a job in the majors at some point in 2013.
Taveras clearly looks like a hitter who is ready to contribute at the Major League level. He has hit everywhere he has gone and is easily the most exciting hitting prospect the Cardinals have had come through the system since former first baseman Albert Pujols.
One issue that could slow the prospect's growth is that the Cardinals already have a crowded outfield.
Where do you play Taveras with Matt Holliday, Jon Jay, and Carlos Beltran already in place?
Taveras spent a lot of time playing center field this past season, with the intention of grooming him into a capable defensive center field that has an explosive bat. If Taveras can continue to improve defensively, he should be able to push Jay sooner than many originally thought.
If not, it would seem like a logical fit for Taveras to take over in right field once Beltran's contract expires.
Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak has a nice problem facing him.
Mozeliak has a very established outfield in place for 2013, but he also has Taveras waiting in the wings for a shot at the first hint of any struggles or injury to Jay, Holliday, or Beltran.
Hopefully Taveras can finish the Dominican Winter League strong and come to spring training ready to compete for a job in 2013. If Taveras can play himself onto the Cardinals roster, he can add a power left-handed bat to the mix of right-handed swingers the Cardinals already have, which include Holliday, David Freese, and Allen Craig.
There is no question that Taveras figures heavily in the Cardinals future as a potential middle-of-the-order threat. It is just a question of whether that future begins in 2013.
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