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Why haven’t the Cardinals called up Oscar Taveras?

May 6, 2014, 12:16 PM EDT

oscar taveras cardinals getty Getty Images

Clearly the Cardinals are not pleased with their center field situation, cycling through Jon Jay, Peter Bourjos, and now Randal Grichuk while getting terrible combined production from the position. So why haven’t they called up top prospect Oscar Taveras, who in addition to thriving at Triple-A right now also has quite a bit of center field experience in the minors?

General manager John Mozeliak explained to Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post Dispatch:

We’d still like him to play a lot more center field, but there’s no doubt he’s playing well. I know a lot’s being made out of Oscar … coming to St. Louis, but right now I don’t even think it’s a logical thing to do.

There are a lot of question marks going on in the outfield to begin with, and I think that would muddy it up. He needs to do what he’s doing and that obviously will make it a very difficult decision at some point. But when you look at some of the guys we have here playing center field, a couple of them are pretty good players.

So it could be partly that the Cardinals aren’t ready to give up on Jay or Bourjos, the latter of whom was just acquired from the Angels for David Freese this offseason. And it’s also possible that they have questions about whether Taveras is still capable of being an asset defensively in center field following ankle problems. He’s only played four games in center field at Triple-A, so the Cardinals don’t appear to be grooming him to take over anytime soon.

Combine those factors and keeping Taveras in the minors a bit more makes some sense, but at some point it’ll be tough to keep down a 22-year-old stud prospect hitting .312 with power at age 22.

  1. thebadguyswon - May 6, 2014 at 12:30 PM

    The fact that Grichuk got called before Taveras was a joke.

    • okwhitefalcon - May 6, 2014 at 12:40 PM

      No it’s wasn’t – it was smart.

      It buys time for Taveras to get some starts in CF in Memphis and not throw him directly into the fire in the big leagues at the position.

      Grichuk will go back down when OT gets the call and play CF everyday in Memphis.

      I suspect he’ll be back when rosters expand (or before if needed) and provide flexibility, depth and a RH power bat off the bench.

      • SocraticGadfly - May 6, 2014 at 3:29 PM

        At the same time, as Jeff Gordon noted, the Cards have an 8-game AL stretch in early June. Could use the extra batter as DH. If he doesn’t get a short-term call-up then, I’ll consider that a joke.

        Question is, not the injury itself, but the Cards’ initial mishandling of it. How much does Taveras still distrust the team? How much is he NOT a “Matheny guy,” as Miklasz wrote about last week? How much is Carlos Martinez NOT a “Matheny guy” instead of Lyons?

    • Carl Hancock - May 6, 2014 at 12:43 PM

      Is it really? I’m a big Taveras fan and a diehard Cardinals fan and i’d have to disagree.

      Grichuk has more flexibility. Grichuk can get at bats filling in at all 3 outfield positions. Something Taveras can’t do.

      The Cardinals don’t want to call up Taveras unless he’s going to get a lot of at bats. Right now, unless they went all in on him playing center field he wouldn’t get at bats everyday and that isn’t a good thing for his development. Not to mention it would start his free agent clock earlier than if they wait until June.

      Grichuk isn’t Taveras but he’s still a talented prospect who was a first round draft pick the same year Shelby Miller and Mike Trout were selected.

      Taveras time is coming and the Cardinals are going to have to find a way to work him in. But I wouldn’t say it’s a joke that Grichuk, who was raking in Memphis, was called up first.

      • beepbeepbeeplgb - May 6, 2014 at 12:54 PM

        great article on how OT can get a good amount of AB’s in the majors.

      • thebadguyswon - May 6, 2014 at 12:59 PM

        I think it was more because Grichuk wont become a Super Two anyway, so there’s no harm in bringing him up first.

  2. okwhitefalcon - May 6, 2014 at 12:31 PM

    Oscar’s time is coming, no doubt about it.

    I would not be surprised to see him after this road trip, especially if the Cards string together a few decent offensive performances/wins as to not put undo pressure on the kid and put him in the position of “savior”.

    The lineup/roster implications will be interesting to watch, when he gets the call he’s not going to sit.

    • jc4455 - May 6, 2014 at 12:34 PM

      You haven’t been paying close attention to Mike Matheny, I can tell.

      • SocraticGadfly - May 6, 2014 at 3:30 PM

        Yep, Matheny has his “guys.” Very much so.

    • gibbyfan - May 6, 2014 at 2:44 PM

      Every night I am rooting for Craig to hit but if he doesnt start soon, how long do they stay with him in right. And I would thing if they do make a change it will be time to bring up OT.

  3. jc4455 - May 6, 2014 at 12:33 PM

    After the likely super two deadline passes, he’ll probably be up. Bourjos and Jay is a fine tandem for center. Taveras doesn’t really project to be much of an improvement this year.

    • bronco58lb - May 6, 2014 at 12:41 PM

      Why Taveras doesn’t project to be much of an improvement? St. Louis is 25th in runs scored and 22nd in OPS.

      • jc4455 - May 6, 2014 at 12:45 PM

        What the team collectively has done in 30 games doesn’t have any impact on how player A measures up against player B.

        Zips has Bourjos at 2.3 wins in 2014, Jay at 1.8, and Taveras at 1.8. Plus you can platoon Bourjos and Jay to accentuate their strengths and minimize their weaknesses. 21 year olds don’t tend to light the world on fire, hence the low win projection, though it seems that way thanks to media coverage of the outliers (Puig, Trout, Harper, etc).

      • paperlions - May 6, 2014 at 1:39 PM

        Defense matters.

        Putting a guy that has barely played CF in CF while also facing the toughest competition he’s ever faced is not guarantee that he’ll perform adequately as soon as he comes up.

      • SocraticGadfly - May 6, 2014 at 3:32 PM

        I have other “issues” with Jay, starting with the fact that he’s probably the team’s dumbest baserunner. (Carpenter may be No. 2; thank doorknob we traded Freese, as that got rid of who may have been No. 1 last year.)

    • bigmeechy74 - May 7, 2014 at 1:41 AM

      bourjos is a terrible hitter. and defense is overrated.

  4. jimmyt - May 6, 2014 at 12:38 PM

    If they wait untill June 1st they will have one more year before he reaches arbitration. He’ll be up after that.

    • ochospantalones - May 6, 2014 at 1:26 PM

      Yeah, I don’t know the specifics of Taveras’ service time, but when I saw the headline I assumed delaying his arbitration clock was the main reason. Obviously, the team can’t say that publicly.

  5. yahmule - May 6, 2014 at 12:41 PM

    Hopefully they’ll miss the playoffs by one game.

    • stlouis1baseball - May 6, 2014 at 1:02 PM

      No…hopefully YOU miss the playoffs by one game.

      • yahmule - May 6, 2014 at 3:49 PM

        Get a haircut, you mug!

  6. bronco58lb - May 6, 2014 at 12:59 PM

    Fair enough, but having followed Taveras, he is one of those special prospects that has been ahead of the growth curve with the bat at every level. He has the tools and performance to be an outliner. Only an ankle injury prevented him from making a debut last year. It’s crazy to think he might not debut until he is almost 22.

    • jc4455 - May 6, 2014 at 1:11 PM

      You realize there are currently four 21-year-old position players in baseball right now, right?

      • bronco58lb - May 6, 2014 at 1:39 PM

        Yes. But how many prospects at age 19 skip an entire minor league level and post a .953 OPS against Double-A pitching? That’s special. Call him up. Taveras is amongst that outliner class.

  7. mas1012 - May 6, 2014 at 1:31 PM

    This is literally such BS. He wouldn’t muddy anything; he’d be starting everyday in CF, a position that he’s played more than any other in the minors and in which he is almost certainly no worse than Jay. This all about Super 2 which is even more BS because you already got the extra year last year when you didn’t call him up only because of injury. Hey why don’t you call him up after June 2015 and you’ll get another year or how about 2016. This isn’t the Pittsburgh pirates. What’s an extra 10-15 million dollars 5 years from now, when in all likelihood you’ll lock him down with a long term contract that will cover those years anyway. I hope they lose a playoffs spot by a game

    • paperlions - May 6, 2014 at 1:49 PM

      Right, it is just like the BS of the Astros keeping Springer down in AAA for a couple of weeks. The assumption that guys that have a couple 100 solid ABs in AAA will immediately rake in the majors and help a team win is all kinds of wrong. He has 300 PAs in AAA and has been good but not great.

      Oscar is a fantastic prospect, but when he comes up he needs to play everyday…and it isn’t clear given his recent injury issues that he can play a decent CF or stay healthy doing so.

      I would love to see the Cardinals bench Craig for a while and play Taveras every day…or move Taveras back and forth from CF to RF taking playing time mostly from Jay and Craig…..but just because as a fan I think it would be fun doesn’t mean that I would make the same decision if I was the GM.

      • beepbeepbeeplgb - May 6, 2014 at 2:04 PM

        u say you’re not hating on craig for his slow start, but yet you comment on everything about trading craig or not playing him.

      • paperlions - May 6, 2014 at 2:40 PM

        When did I ever say such a thing?

        I’ve actually posted multiple times that Craig should be the primary trade option to create room for Taveras.

      • mas1012 - May 6, 2014 at 2:09 PM

        Taveras doesn’t have the strikeout/contact issues that springer had /has and that’s usually the biggest factor in adjusting to the majors. As for his health, he seems all good and if he’s playing center in the minors everyday without issues I think it’s fair to assume his risk of breakdown in the majors is no more than in the minors. I really can’t see him not playing everyday even if he struggles(which I don’t think he will) because jay and bourjos could make practically anyone look like an all star right now. Do you honestly think he has anything more to prove in triple A? The guy was set to be called up last year when there actually wasn’t a spot for him. Not to jump the gun, but his line is very similar to what puigs was before he got called up….

      • paperlions - May 6, 2014 at 2:43 PM

        I am just saying that it is a complex decision and not as cut and dried as many people are trying to make it seem. It isn’t like the Cardinals have a gaping hole and he will be a clear upgrade….and yes, he does still have some things to show at AAA…his numbers are fine, but not great at all.

        Mostly, I have zero trust in Matheny to not make dumb decisions. He has shown repeatedly, that if he has options he’ll exhibit knee jerk reactions to small sample sizes. With the available options the Cardinals do have….if Taveras comes up and starts of 2-20, do you really think Matheny will keep running him out there instead of Craig or Jay? A good manager would, but the Cardinals don’t have a good manager.

      • mas1012 - May 6, 2014 at 4:22 PM

        Well I do think he is a clear upgrade but you’re probably right about matheney. I could see him split taveras’s playing time even if he’s tearing it up since he seems to be in a romantic relationship with John Jay

      • paperlions - May 6, 2014 at 4:33 PM

        I would HOPE he’d be a clear upgrade, but based on history…Jay is better than this and so is Bourjos….and Taveras would be unlikely to replicate his AAA numbers playing in the majors (though he could exceed them, of course, it isn’t likely). Bourjos’ defense is crazy good, it makes up for a lot of his performance at the plate….he’s probably worth about 1/2 out/game over Jay or Taveras in CF….that is a lot of runs (he saved at least 1 run last night) over a year and a lot fewer pitches your pitchers have to throw.

    • jrob23 - May 6, 2014 at 2:09 PM

      yep. Mozeliak is a scumbag and he will regret treating his young stars this way. Taveras, Piscotty, Martinez, Wong…and that is just the recent examples. The dude has taken this to a new level. By keeping Martinez out of the rotation and in a set up role he minimizes his numbers which affects his salary demands and arbitration. Taveras should be up by now if it was purely a baseball decision but it isn’t with Mozeliack. It’s all about control. Wong was struggling but sending him down makes zero sense, give the kid some time to adjust. He has no problem bring up the lesser prospects because he doesn’t care if he loses control of them. I really hope that these players call him on his b.s. and don’t sign a team friendly contract extension. Play out the string and bolt as soon as you can. All of them are young enough that they can hit FA in mid 20s and cash in then. Let’s see Johnny boy field a competitive team when draftees see how he treats players and refuse to sign with them. He just doesn’t see the big picture ramifications of his actions.

      • SocraticGadfly - May 6, 2014 at 3:33 PM

        You’re blaming the wrong person, to the degree there’s blame to pass out. The name is “Matheny,” not “Mozeliak.”

  8. kardshark1 - May 6, 2014 at 1:40 PM

    You could write 2 articles by replacing four things: Pirates, Gregory Polanco, Jose Tabata and Travis Snider.

    • jrob23 - May 6, 2014 at 2:10 PM

      yep..the Polanco example is as bad if not worse as he is needed more and is better.

  9. unlost1 - May 6, 2014 at 2:03 PM

    he might help them win 2 more games by bringing him up a month early. not worth it.

  10. scatterbrian - May 6, 2014 at 3:32 PM

    Did you read that article about George Springer yesterday? Perhaps the teams know a little more about player development than we do. Particularly St. Louis.

    • yahmule - May 6, 2014 at 3:47 PM

      That article was knee jerk silliness.

    • yahmule - May 6, 2014 at 10:53 PM

      Springer was 3-4 with a double tonight.

  11. davethestick - May 6, 2014 at 4:54 PM

    The reason Taveras is not in the majors yet is because of his off the field issues. He is another Puig. Yes lots of talent but a lot of growing up still to do.

  12. senioreditor2 - May 6, 2014 at 6:26 PM

    He’ll be called up in June just like many”can’t miss” prospects. That way he probably won’t become a super 2 and his clock will be delayed. They’ll potentially save millions by waiting. It make sense and they can hover around .500 until then.

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