The only real dispute among most national prospect-watchers is whether St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras is ranked first, second or maybe third in the game. Among prospects in his number one-ranked organization, the 21-year-old is top dog.
With veteran right fielder Carlos Beltran in the final year of his contact and needing a bit more time off for his sore knees, the table seemed set for Taveras to serve his initial MLB apprenticeship in the second half of 2013.
As Allen Craig suffered an early August foot injury that finished his regular season, even more at-bats were potentially available. However, it was Matt Adams, not Taveras, who became the primary beneficiary.
By then rehabbing in Jupiter, Florida, all Taveras might do is watch the Cardinals on television as they fought deep into October and wonder what might have been.
His troubles began way back on May 12 with a slide into second base while with Triple-A Memphis. Taveras did not go onto the disabled list due to his ankle sprain until May 29 as it was not initially considered to be severe. By his June 8 return, the injury had been classified as a more problematic high ankle sprain.
The second time, Taveras only lasted 15 games before re-injuring the ankle on June 23. He returned to the DL the next day, missing his invitation to play in the MLB Futures Game and a lot more. Another return in the Gulf Coast League was aborted after just one day, on July 15, before Taveras was shut down from running.
In mid-August, Taveras’ return was said to be nearing – until the news a few days later that surgery was deemed necessary. Cartilage and ligament damage was found in his right ankle and a walking boot was required for at least eight weeks. Taveras continued his rehab into the fall at the Cardinals complex in Florida, where I took this photo in early October.
The left-handed hitter ended up playing in just 46 games for Memphis in 2013 and of course, none for St. Louis.
Despite the addition of Peter Bourjos via trade to the outfield mix to essentially take Beltran’s roster spot for 2014, if Taveras proves his health in the spring, his St. Louis debut will soon follow. Yet 2013 was a lost season for a young man who had rocketed through the organization until then.