The day St. Louis Cardinals fans have been waiting for has come.
According to the posted line-up card, top prospect Oscar Taveras will make his 2014 spring training debut today.
Taveras, who hasn't played in a game since the middle of last summer thanks to an ankle injury that eventually required surgery, was held out of previous games despite claims from the Redbirds during the Winter Warm-Up that he would be ready to go at the start of spring work outs.
Finding out what Taveras can do at the major league level will have a big impact on the Cardinals plans for 2014 and beyond. It will decide if Matt Adams factors heavily into the future plans or if Tavares will push Allen Craig back to first base. It will play a large role in determining who will fill the second slot in the batting order because the line drive spraying outfielder is, perhaps, better suited for the job than anyone else on the eventual 25-man roster.
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If Peter Bourjos plays centerfield, his low on-base percentage dictates that he'd be down at the bottom of the batting rotation while the guy he'd replace, Jon Jay, often filled that second spot. If Kolton Wong heads north with the Cardinals, he's likely going to end up at the bottom of the order, too. It would be an awful lot of pressure on a kid who hasn't yet proved he can consistently hit in the big leagues to put him at the top of a high-octane offense.
New shortstop Jhonny Peralta could end up in the spot by default. But he's also not a high on-base percentage guy and he has typically been a bottom of the order run producer more than a table setter over the course of his career.
Adams will be most directly affected if Taveras makes the big league roster. He's a good power source and I'm glad to see that he's made an effort to become a more complete hitter by taking the ball the other way when that's what's available to him. But he's a big, lumbering sort of fellow who strikes out a lot and when he gets on he's apt to clog the bases. When he plays, he's more of a fifth or sixth hitter.
If Wong can't play everyday, then Mark Ellis might be the best option to bat second. Or the Cardinals could be forced to start Jay against righty pitchers.
But it would be a much better option to have the lefty slugger Taveras batting second in a nice, comfortably spot in front of Matt Holliday. If Carpenter can get on base to the tune of the .381 clip he's done in his first two major league full seasons and Holliday and Craig continue to be .300 hitter, 100 RBI sorts, Taveras ought to get lots of pitches to hit and he'd punish opposing pitchers.
The best case scenario for the St. Louis line-up, at least against righty pitchers:
3B Carpenter (L)
RF Taveras (L)
LF Holliday (R)
1B Craig (R)
C Molina (R)
SS Peralta (R)
CF Bourjos (R)
2B Wong (L)