Could he pull an Albert Pujols and force his way into the Cardinals lineup this year?
If you recall, Pujols was not expected to make the roster in 2001. He only had 14 at bats above high A ball and was ticketed for Memphis (AAA) to start the season.
However, Pujols impressed the Cardinals brass so much during Spring Training that they were forced to find a spot for him. Then when Bobby Bonilla got hurt, the Cardinals used his roster spot for Pujols and the rest is history.
Fast forward to 2013 and the Cardinals could face a similar situation.
Taveras is expected to start the season at AAA, but could potentially force his way into the Cardinals plans for 2013. According to Derrick Goold, Taveras will get a good look this spring. With Carlos Beltran playing in the World Baseball Classic and Matt Holliday not expected to play everyday during the spring, Taveras will get ample at bats. How he performs could go a long way towards making his case for a roster spot.
In the spring of 2001, Pujols, primarily a third baseman at the time, was also practicing in the outfield and at first, giving him more positional flexibility. Thus, although the 2001 Cardinals had a set lineup at each position, Pujols wound up playing 55 games at third, 42 at first, 39 in left and 39 in right in his rookie year, allowing him to amass 590 at bats.
For Taveras, while he is limited to the outfield, he can play all 3 spots. Thus, while the Cardinals appear to have a set lineup, Brian Feldman suggests that the Cardinals could find at bats for Taveras by having him platoon with Beltran in right, play one game a week to spell Jay, fill in occasionally for Holliday and DH in interleague games.
The Cardinals could possibly trade one of their outfielders to make room for Taveras, but they may want to see how he performs at the major league level first before doing so, which makes Feldman's suggestion even more plausible.
Its easy to look at Taveras' minor league stats and get excited about his future with the Cardinals. Take a look at the stats for Pujols' 2000 minor league season (his only season in the minors) compared to Taveras' 2012 minor league season:
Looking at those stats, I have little doubt that Taveras will succeed in the majors. The only remaining question is: How soon?