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Have the Cardinals benched Oscar Taveras?

Aug 15, 2014, 5:31 PM EDT

oscar taveras getty Getty Images

When the Cardinals traded Allen Craig to the Red Sox for John Lackey the assumption was that the move had two goals for St. Louis: One was to bring in rotation help with Lackey and the other was to clear an everyday spot in the outfield and the lineup for stud prospect Oscar Taveras.

However, now the 22-year-old rookie is struggling with a .206 batting average and .530 OPS through 45 games and it seems as though manager Mike Matheny has decided to bench him. And it’s not the first time, as Matheny has previously held Taveras out of the lineup more often than Cardinals fans would like, before and after the Craig trade.

With a right-handed pitcher on the mound for the Padres in Tyson Ross the Cardinals have the left-handed-hitting Taveras on the bench for the second straight game in favor of the right-handed-hitting Shane Robinson.

Robinson is a 29-year-old career .232 hitter with a .615 OPS who has barely been able to stick around with the Cardinals as a fifth outfielder, so clearly something is up. Taveras, who was Baseball America’s third-ranked prospect both this season and last season, hit .318 with an .872 OPS at Triple-A this year.

  1. timstl - Aug 15, 2014 at 5:37 PM

    Shouldn’t be long before Mo’ sends Robinson back to the minors in an attempt to force Matheny’s hand. Mark Ellis better start shagging fly balls, if he hasn’t already.

  2. twinfan24 - Aug 15, 2014 at 5:44 PM

    Could it be an injury or ailment they aren’t choosing to make public? Maybe, maybe not.

    But, I would think if you weren’t starting Taveras it would make more sense to slide Jay to RF and start Bourjos in CF for the defense upgrade at least. If this turns into a power play of Mozeliak vs Matheny, I don’t think Matheny wins. Of course, if Taveras isn’t hitting, it is awfully difficult for Mozeliak to push harder for Matheny to play him.

    • SocraticGadfly - Aug 15, 2014 at 5:52 PM

      It would make more sense yet to call up Grichuk. Or even Piscotty.

      • kyleshabram - Aug 15, 2014 at 6:21 PM

        Piscotty is not on the 40 man roster and does not have to be until next season. I wouldn’t count on him coming up.

      • SocraticGadfly - Aug 15, 2014 at 6:46 PM

        There’s been talk he’ll get a September call-up, actually. I know he’s not on the 40-man, but Sugar Shane ain’t the future; all you have to do is DFA him.

      • tmc602014 - Aug 15, 2014 at 7:28 PM

        There’s a guy named Piscotty? That’s what my niece calls those hard Italian cookies…

    • asimonetti88 - Aug 15, 2014 at 10:50 PM

      An injury is possible. Another possibility is that he’s a 22 year old rookie in his first stint in the majors and is still figuring it out.

  3. jrod2go - Aug 15, 2014 at 5:50 PM

    I think there was a question about his ankle the other night as he hit third base. Non story

  4. SocraticGadfly - Aug 15, 2014 at 5:52 PM

    That said, I’ve said it before, fellow Cards fans, there is this word called “P-H-E-N-O-M.”

  5. schlom - Aug 15, 2014 at 6:07 PM

    As long as Bob Davidson is umpiring their games they have nothing to worry about.

  6. jilljulias - Aug 15, 2014 at 6:10 PM

    He’s benched. There seems to be some kind of disconnect between the GM and the manager. The manager has stated that he is not in the development business; the GM says we are growing out own players. Well, I don’t know how you can grow your own players without some sort of development in the major leagues.

    Manager is going to win this one. Tavares is as good as gone.

    • sportsfan18 - Aug 15, 2014 at 8:00 PM

      The manager only wins if the G.M. goes along with him.

  7. perryt200 - Aug 15, 2014 at 6:13 PM

    I’ve never been a big Taveras fan, he just can’t seem to hit the major league fastball.

    You should have heard Tim McCarver dissing him just a few nights ago. Said he can’t throw, doesn’t field well and if he can’t hit ML fastballs he didn’t see the Cards needing him.

    But of course I am screwed up, I still want to see Pete Kozma

    • SocraticGadfly - Aug 15, 2014 at 6:47 PM

      Pete Kozma, the sabermetric answer to Mario Mendoza?

  8. perryt200 - Aug 15, 2014 at 6:15 PM

    Oh, and this should be a lesson for all the Cubs fans, prospects; even number one prospects don’t always work out as planned.

  9. andreweac - Aug 15, 2014 at 6:16 PM

    If this is a battle between the GM and manager the Cards will have a new manager next year. That would be a good thing for the continued success of the club.

    • jilljulias - Aug 15, 2014 at 7:07 PM

      I don’t think so.

    • jilljulias - Aug 15, 2014 at 7:11 PM

      The manager is under contract longer than the GM is. I don’t see him firing the manager.

  10. bkertz - Aug 15, 2014 at 6:19 PM

    Yep. Let’s all overreact about a slow start to the first 45 games of a player’s career.

  11. erbaodai - Aug 15, 2014 at 6:28 PM

    Taveras’ AAA numbers: .313/.358/.485

    Good, but not impressive. Certainly not good enough for a Top 3 prospect in baseball.

    • SocraticGadfly - Aug 15, 2014 at 6:49 PM

      The PCL is a hitters’ league, due in fair part to altitude at several parks. McCarver mentioned MLB fastballs; actually, because of the altitude, PCL batters are likely to not see very many top notch breaking pitches.

      • erbaodai - Aug 15, 2014 at 7:10 PM

        Well, that just makes his already not-impressive slash lines even less impressive.

      • SocraticGadfly - Aug 15, 2014 at 7:59 PM

        In the PCL, Reno, Colorado Springs, El Paso, Salt Lake and Albuquerque all play at altitudes of 3,000 feet and above. Five of 16 teams. SLC is above 4,000 feet. Reno’s at 4,500. Albuquerque is approximately the altitude of Denver. Colorado Springs is 2,000 feet higher.

        We all know, in the bigs, that you can’t throw good curves at Denver, and especially pre-humidor days, the ball travels farther. As far as I know, none of the high-altitude AAA teams have humidors.

    • erbaodai - Aug 15, 2014 at 7:43 PM

      That’s right, thumbs down on me as much as you want, but that still would not change the facts.

  12. mianfr - Aug 15, 2014 at 7:38 PM

    He and Jurickson Profar are the centerpieces of my “Why you should always trade prospects who aren’t generational talents” post, should I ever stop being lazy enough to start a blog.

  13. Darkoestrada - Aug 15, 2014 at 9:13 PM

    How about giving him more than 45 games before writing him off as a bust? Even mike trout only hit .220 with a .671 ops in his first 40 games in 2011. It’s too small a sample to judge anything.

    • erbaodai - Aug 15, 2014 at 9:47 PM

      How about he’s grossly overrated in the beginning, that people’s expectations are just way too big for someone with a .843 OPS in the PCL?

  14. stevequinn - Aug 16, 2014 at 12:15 AM

    Matheny is an idiot. He’s in over his head. And he has his “little boys” club with Descalso and Robinson….neither of whom would be on any other team’s roster. The Cardinals won’t make the playoffs this year because they have the absolute worst bench in MLB.

    If it comes to a power struggle over Taveras, Matheny will be unemployed next year and that won’t be a bad thing. His roster moves and pitching changes belong in Little League. He’s going to kill Rosenthal the same way Dusty Baker ruined a great Cubs pitching staff.

    • SocraticGadfly - Aug 16, 2014 at 12:20 AM

      I’m not saying that none of the problems are of Taveras’ own making. But you’re right that this probably is in part a “Matheny’s guys” deal.

      Kolten Wong was treated somewhat that way. Arguably, especially after his “magic Twitter,” Carlos Martinez got little love from Matheny.

    • ud1951 - Aug 16, 2014 at 11:20 AM

      I think the St Louis bench is an issue, but they are not by at least one measure the worst in baseball. Their pinch hitters have produced a .606 OPS, not good, but good enough for 17th in the majors and a darn sight better than the .294 OPS from Houston pinch hitters and the .490 and .446 the Cubs and Braves pinch hitters have produced.

      As I said, the bench is an issue, but if the Cards don’t make the playoffs it will be because the 8 starting position players produced insufficient offense to complement the above average starting and relief pitching.

  15. penguins87and71 - Aug 16, 2014 at 1:06 AM

    How is this guy going to learn to play in the majors if his sitting on the bench. He needs to be out there almost everyday. In the MLB you need to be patient especially with young players. His only played in 45 games in his short career. it’s to early to to make a decision on his career when you have only seen a sample size. The keyword is patience.

  16. jrob23 - Aug 16, 2014 at 2:04 AM

    the kid has talent but his swing is a bit long and if his timing is off he can’t catch up to inside fastballs. He’ll figure it out, he’s young. Prospects as highly touted as him sometimes let things get to their head and get in their own way. For every prospect who hits the ground running there are 100 who fail and get sent back down. Matheny doesn’t seem to have much patience with young players in general. I think Mozeliak needs to reign him in lest he pisses too many of them off i.e. Taveras, Martinez and they jump ship at first chance they get

  17. okwhitefalcon - Aug 16, 2014 at 1:00 PM

    He’s started all but 2 games since the Craig trade, not sure if that qualifies as a of a full on “benching” declaration.

    Bottom line, Oscar’s not hitting and he’s become a liability – for now,

    Admittedly, the options aren’t great but that’s Mo’s department.

    The GM needs to ensure the major league roster provides viable options when players are underperforming.

    If opportunities to improve the 25 man roster don’t present themselves, they’re going to have to make do with what they have available and that will continue to put the manager in tough spots regarding playing time.

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