Tonight, the St. Louis Cardinals play the Pittsburgh Pirates in a clash for second place in the National League Central. The Pirates leapfrogged the Cardinals in the standings over the weekend after the Cardinals had a disappointing series with the Marlins and the Pirates swept the Phillies.
After struggling at the beginning of the season the Pirates have shot up the standings with the help of super-prospect Gregory Polanco. After being called up on June 10, Polanco started his major league career with an 11 game hitting streak. After the streak ended, Polanco remained a part of one of the best outfields in baseball. In the time that Polanco has been with the big league club the Pirates have gone 17-8.
The Cardinals have a super prospect that they have called up in the 2014 season. Oscar Taveras was a top 15 prospect in 2012, in 2013 he was number two on MLB.com’s top 100 prospects, and before this season he held that same spot. As the top National League prospect, Taveras came up to the Cardinals with a lot of hype. His first big league hit was a towering home run, but he followed it up with ten games with just one RBI. He didn’t spark the the lineup quite the way they expected so the Cardinals returned him to Triple-A.
Taveras was recalled on July 1 and has been hitting much better since his return. He has hits in 3 of his five games including two doubles and two RBIs.
Now the two prospects square off for the first time. The common stats show that Polanco has been much better to this point, and the rate stats show that this may continue.
Polanco is hitting .287 with three home runs and 13 RBIs in 101 at-bats. Taveras has a much more modest .182 batting average with one home run and four RBIs. The edge clearly goes to Polanco, but some batted ball statistics suggest there might be a leveling out.
Polanco has a much higher BABIP than Taveras, .333 for Polanco and .205 for Taveras. High BABIP is sometimes considered good luck, but Polanco is not simply luckier than Taveras. Polanco is hitting balls that have likelihood of finding holes. Polanco has a much higher line drive rate than Taveras. Polanco is hitting line drives on 22% of his batted balls while Taveras is hitting just 13% line drives.
Polanco is not only out hitting Oscar Taveras, but some of the best hitters in baseball. His line drive rate is similar to batting average leaders Jonathan Lucroy, Adrian Beltre, Jose Altuve and Paul Goldschmidt.
Polanco has already proved that he can hit with the top players in the sport, but it is way to early to put down Oscar Taveras. His high bat speed, smooth swing and natural power will make him a force to be reckoned with in the National League for years to come. After all, Willie Mays only hit .218 in his first 15 games.