MLB Prospect Breakdown: Oscar Taveras

Written By: JK Whited

For my second Top Prospect Breakdown we will take a look at Oscar Taveras.  Taveras is ranked as the third  top prospect in baseball and the number one prospect in the St. Louis Cardinals organization.  For more information on Taveras’s background you can click here.

A few months ago I broke down the Cubs’ prospect Javier Baez, which you can find here.  I was not only impressed with his mechanics but also his style.  Baez is a very smooth hitter.  For the second breakdown, I wanted to go the other direction .  Unlike Baez, Taveras has a much more rugged style. Personally, I enjoy the smoother swing but both work at high levels and I wanted to illustrate how both can be used.  Don’t get me wrong, Taveras is one of the top power hitting prospects in the country.  This article will break down Taveras’s swing but also show that within the same high level swing pattern, guys can look different.  Below are two views of Oscar’s game swing.  The first video shown will be used for our breakdown.

 

 

 

Stance

stance1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As far as stances go, this is pretty generic.  You can tell he has been taught to lean a little on that back knee and it looks like he starts with his front foot open an inch or two.  I do not think this type of stance allows for the most athletic movement possible because of how wide and bent his knees are.  Remember in baseball, the batter must only move one direction.  In basketball, the player must be able to react in all directions.  Because of this concept,  many kids get put into the “basketball” stance.  This automatically takes much of their athletic forward momentum out of the swing.  At 6’2″ and 200 lbs, I still think he could be in a stance that allows a better start.

First Move and Leg Lift

leg lift

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taveras’ initial starting move is a rather rugged  front leg lift with a little shift back.  Compared to Baez, this is not nearly as smooth.  However, this move works for Taveras.  There are many different types of leg lifts you see guys use.  Taveras does not seem as efficient as it could be.  Learn more about Leg Kicks Here!

1.  Taveras shifts back but does not allow his back knee to roll or shift back over and behind his back foot.  You see a lot of young players mimic moves like this but the first thing they do is move their back knees too much.

2. Taveras begins to row the back shoulder as the front shoulder rolls inward just slightly.  Even though the front shoulder is more inward, Taveras maintains the center of his vision (nose) on the target.

 

Forward Move/Tip/Separation

foot down

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1.   You can tell from the background that Taveras has, without a doubt, moved his weight forward.  The angle of his shoulders are far less downhill than some others like Baez.  You can typically pin this on just being a bigger guy.  Bigger guys will set the upward and back angle a little sooner than a Baez type of player.

2.  Taveras does a decent job of landing with a bent front knee and open front foot on this particular swing.  This was not something that I saw him do very consistently in the swings I have seen him take.  I would like to see him make this change soon, as he will most likely be in the big leagues shortly.

3.  One of the most impressive things about this guy is his pelvis and shoulder separation.  Really look closely at the wrinkles in his jersey and how he “loads” around himself rather than with his hands.  His front hip is clearly open, pulling his belt buckle in the shortstop’s direction.  At the same time, his jersey logo (chest/shoulders) are clearly facing the umpire.  This move allows him to have sudden super thrust and in turn, a lot of  immediate power.

Note:  There is very little tip-in or “see-saw” motion from Taveras.  Perhaps some pre-separation barrel movement could add a few mph to his exit speed.  To learn more about a good “tip” move, CLICK HERE.

 

Super Thrust and Barrel Flail

start of turn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1.  This is a really incredible super thrust from Taveras.  He has his belt buckle way open towards the pitcher, pulling his pelvis around his very still axis. Learn more about Super Thrust HERE.

2.  He does a great job using his front knee drive to keep his axis still so that his head stays in the same place.   At the same time, he is driving his front hip backwards towards the catcher.

3.  This is a great image.  This shot shows that the shoulders are still just a little behind the hips as he turns and flails the barrel into the hitting zone.  The barrel is rocketing towards the camera in so that it will be at top speed way before contact.  To learn more about the “Rule of the Flail” CLICK HERE. 

 

Vision and Turn to Contact

contact

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1.  The back foot has come off the ground as his back hip completes the turn.  This is a super athletic move that allows great hip rotation.  Most guys are taught out of this from an early age because most youth coaches don’t understand why it happens.

2. Taveras does not display the best vision here.  I have seen many of his swings now and this is not the best representation of his vision.  You can see how his nose is pointed out toward the field while the ball is right off the bat.  At this point in the swing, his nose should not be turned out but turned in. There is a good chance he missed this particular pitch just because his vision was off.  This really proves that even with a great swing from the neck down, vision is still of the utmost importance.

3. He is still continuing to have a massive lower body turn.

4.  Taveras has decent arm angles here.  Both arms remain bent for the most part, but his front arm is looking a little longer than optimal. This particular pitch is high in the zone so there would not be the need for much tilt in his shoulders.  If you watch this swing in full speed, it does look a bit “pushy,”  meaning he engages his arms a little to much at the point of contact rather than releasing.  To learn more on release, CLICK HERE.

 

Release

release

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1.  The back foot has now moved just about as far as it needs to and will now be used as Taveras’s support or “kickstand” as he finishes the rest of his turn.

2.  Like I said before, I think this particular swing was a little “pushy” and therefore the release of his barrel is not the best.  There are other videos of Taveras out there showing a smoother release.  Although a little pushy, the barrel does get higher after contact.  A great article on the difference between pushing and releasing to extension is HERE!

3.  Taveras perfectly executes relaxing of the back knee to allow the full pull of the hips and back foot.  Most kids at this point of their swings are already extending/straightening their back leg.

 

Turn Continued to Finish

finish

Taveras has a nice finished product here as he clearly continues to rotate well beyond contact with the ball.  Finishing is often times not completed by the hitter because they are either taught to or naturally want to start running to first base.  In thinking that contact is the goal of the swing, young and older players start slowing down to hit and then run. This causes a big loss in the power department if this is a player’s mindset.  Notice the bent back knee right where it needs to be.  Believe it or not, I still think there is more in the tank if he would pull that back foot a little further.

Final Thought

Overall, Oscar Taveras has a  solid swing pattern.  With his size and continued growth, he will only continue to make gains in the power department.  With a few mechanical additions such as better vision, a slower and smoother forward move, and a cleaner landing on his front side (bent knee), he could make positive changes TODAY.

 

JK Whited – Leader of The Baseball Rebellion

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lemon_lime14

so you should think about loading the shoulders and not the hands?