As each new September rolls around, major league clubs find themselves staring down the barrel of another down season or a legitimate shot at a playoff berth. The ambiguity that exists at the trade deadline of if some teams will contend or not has disappeared by the time the dog days have passed a the end of August. So while the contenders are preparing for that final playoff push, everyone else is left with 15 new unoccupied roster spots to scout out some talent for the coming years. In years past, the September call-ups have often held only one true story of intrigue; when will Oscar Taveras finally be called up?
Coming in 2014, Oscar Taveras was the third highest ranked prospect in all of professional baseball, but he had not so much as sniffed a big league uniform. Over six minor league seasons at various levels, Taveras had posted an incredible .320 batting average and .516 slugging percentage. Cards’ fans awaited Taveras’ arrival like a dog at the door when his owner returns from work.
In 2014, Taveras finally arrived. And he hit a home run in his first at-bat. Since then? Not much else.
After his much ballyhooed debut homer, Taveras cratered and has only slightly recovered. As of today, Taveras is hitting .233/.272/.306 with an abysmal -0.7 WAR. Taveras has only hit one more homer since his debut and has made a return trip to the minors. His OPS+ currently sits at 61 which is worse than the Reds’ light hitting shortstop Zach Cozart. All of which brings us to the question: what the heck happened to Oscar Taveras?
According to Fangraphs, Taveras has been swinging at 34% of the pitches he sees outside of the strikezone and making contact with 84% of those swings. Both of those statistics explain Taveras’ heightened groundball rate of 52% and why he hasn’t been hitting for power all season long. Because Taveras his swinging at bad pitches, he’s making weak contact resulting in more outs.
So will he continue like this or return to form? Conventional wisdom says that as Taveras adjusts to Major League pitching, he will stop swinging at bad pitches and thus return to form. Fangraphs supports this assessment with their five year projection indicating Taveras to be a yearly 3.5 to 4 WAR player. Fear not Cards’ fans, the Taveras you’ve long awaited should be due to arrive next spring.