During the offseason, I took a look at perceived value differences for some big name players; you can find the article here. As a quick refresher, perceived value difference involves players who have an industry-wide variance in value. This time I’m focusing on a recent development: Oscar Taveras’ fall from grace.
The High-end Value
During this last offseason, before 2014 Taveras was a consensus top-5 prospect on nearly any rankings list you could find. The same was true before 2013. He’s projected to have a very solid bat, hitting for both average and power. He seems capable of reaching double-digits in stolen bases, though maybe just barely. He has a good eye and makes a lot of contact despite his free-swinging ways. A lot of fantasy managers are drooling over his MLB ceiling, which could be as high as a #1 OF who hits .300 with 30 HR and 100 RBI. Granted, that’s long-term potential, not his first full season, but those who are high on Taveras are hoping for that type of breakout.
The Low-end Value
I read various minors guides and sites that rank prospects, and I also bought into Taveras. I assumed everyone liked him as much as I did, until I tried trading him for another top-5 prospect, and I discovered that the manager, who is a full-time prospect lover, actually wasn’t that excited about Taveras. Had I stepped into an alternate dimension here? I wondered whether it was simply because the manager had a man-crush on the guy I was trying to trade for, but that wasn’t it — he said he’d cooled on Taveras.
The reason for the change in perceived value? Taveras’ ankle injury. Actually, that’s not even the main issue. Sure, if a prospect gets injured, his development could be affected, and his ETA could be delayed. However, Taveras is pretty much MLB ready, after dominating AA in 2012 and doing well in AAA before his ankle injury forced him to miss significant time. No, what’s come up in the news this spring are questions about his mental approach. As this article states, the blame from the team’s point of view seems to be Taveras himself: he was cleared by doctors to play, but he didn’t go full-out and favored his ankle, which may have directly led to his hamstring injury. The way the media is portraying it, the team is questioning his toughness and motivation. This negative portrayal of Taveras from many sites is what’s lowering his perceived value among fantasy managers. If he can’t take the daily grind of playing slightly hurt, then he’s not worth a top prospect price.
There are obviously a lot of intangibles when it comes to the makeup of a player, and particularly a prospect. I agree that the mental aspect is quite important, but that it’s extremely hard to get a handle on as a fantasy manager. At first glance, this story about Taveras’ lack of mental grit seems to be good advice to stay away, or at least not rank him as the top bat. However, bear in mind that there is a lot of noise in spring training news. Anyone who loses or gains weight, or adds some muscle, or sits out for two consecutive days with a minor injury — these all get reported and speculated on, because we writers need something to talk about, and we’ve been waiting all winter for the season to start and for something new to happen. A lot of MLB regulars don’t crank up the intensity during spring training until the last week. To say that Taveras was taking it easy and that it’s his “fault” because the team cleared him? That seems pretty stupid to me (though it doesn’t mean it’s 100% untrue).
Instead, consider the Cardinals MLB outfield. Craig is moving out there to allow Adams to play. That fills the hole that Beltran created. Bourjos was just traded for, and though he’s no long-term solution, it does give the Cardinals a full OF and lets Taveras come along at his own pace. There might be cause for concern (and truth to the speculating articles) if Craig gets hurt, Bourjos is awful, Taveras is healthy, and yet they still don’t bring up the kid. But even then, one could point to service time clock as a potential reason to hold him back.
I’ll keep the information in mind about Taveras, but I’m not going to drop his value in my rankings. Of course, as a buyer, you may want to point this out to try to lower your purchase price, but if the other owner holds his ground, I’d still target him with expectations of a bright future. It simply may not be in 2014, and that wouldn’t likely be a knock on the prospect if Bourjos is decent and Craig and Adams are healthy all year.