The Cardinals debut of Oscar Taveras, 10 years later

A look back at the excitement of the debut of Oscar Taveras, the tragic ending to his young life, and the dominoes that have fallen since May 31st, 2014.
San Francisco Giants v St. Louis Cardinals
San Francisco Giants v St. Louis Cardinals / Dilip Vishwanat/GettyImages
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Can you believe it's been 10 years since that rainy May day in St. Louis? Since all of St. Louis stopped to watch what was the budding of a bright young star in baseball. Think about where you were at that time physically, or in life. Think about the direction and the state of the Cardinals organization at the time. The Cardinals were coming off 3 straight NLCS appearances and 2 World Series appearances in the last 3 years.

It's not often your organization finds, drafts, develops, and unleashes a top-ranked hitting prospect onto the competition. On May 31st, 2014, that is exactly what the St. Louis Cardinals did. At the time 21-year-old Oscar Taveras made his Major League debut and proceeded to launch a ball 418 feet over the left field wall for his first Major League home run. The wait was over. With that swing, Cardinal fans welcomed their most anticipated prospect since Albert Pujols. A fixture for the middle of the order, and their Outfield, for years to come. Only except, it wasn't to be.

On this 10-year Anniversary of the Debut of Oscar Taveras, we thought it would be fitting to look back and remember what a talented and joyful young man he was, how his career was ended so suddenly, and how that has had an impact on the Cardinals since.

Let's start by remembering how exciting Oscar was as a prospect in the Minors.

Oscar before MLB: The Hype

Oscar Francisco Taveras was born in Puerto Plata of the Dominican Republic on June 19th, 1992. He was a very driven and proud individual. Some stories say that at the ripe age of five, he anointed himself the nickname "El Fenómeno" or "The Phenomenon" in English. Who does that? Well, Oscar did. He dreamed of being in the Major Leagues and making his dad, family, and hometown proud.

Taveras was a phenomenon from the word go too. He was signed in 2008 out of the DR at 16 years old and immediately started his ascension. Taveras was a left-handed hitter with a ferocious swing that sprayed the ball from pole to pole. His load would remind you of a Juan Soto, crunched, staring into the pitcher and waiting for the next pitch like a dog watching a steak being cooked.

As aggressive as he was, he was consistent. That's what got him to the majors. From the seasons of 2009-2011 he got the seasoning he needed from a 65 game short season rookie ball in 2009 to a 97 games in 2011 between Single-A Quad City, and the Arizona Fall League. During that time Oscar saw his BA. continue to tick upward to the point that he finished 2011 with the River Bandits (Quad-Cities) with a .386 BA and an OPS of 1.028. He was 19.

2012 was the season Taveras really broke out and put it all together. He spent a full season at AA Springfield where he mashed 23 home runs, drove in 94 runs, and had a slash-line of BA .321/Slug. .572/On-base plus slugging .953. He went 3-4 in the Texas League All-Star game with a HR, 2b, and 3 RBI. He won Texas League MVP honors by leading the league in over 4 different offensive categories. All this earned Taveras his first future game honors where he got to showcase his skills against and in front of some of the best players in the world. Taveras was robbed of a hit in the third but ended 1-3 with a single.

"I saw OT hit an absolute bomb over the training facility at Hammons Field when he was in Springfield (2012). The ball felt like it was in slow motion with how long it traveled in the air"
- Mason Keith, Redbird Rants

Entering the 2013 season Taveras was already ranked the #1 ranked prospect in the Cardinals system and the third-best in all of MLB. It was time for some last polishing. After all, Oscar was about to turn 21. He spent the 2013 season in Memphis and took home more honors. He participated in the 2013 Futures game as well and continued to show great promise as he battled injuries for the first time in his professional career. He ended the 2013 season batting still .306 for the season with 32 Rbi's and poised for that next leap.

On November 20th, 2013, Taveras was added to the Cardinals 40-man roster.