Yesterday saw the Reds sign Willy Taveras, who had been non-tendered by the Rockies after they couldn’t find a trading partner, to a 2-year contract according to John Fay of The Cincinnati Enquirer (click here for the post). Taveras led the majors in stolen bases last season with 68 after having 34, 33 and 33 the three previous seasons. He should be the team’s centerfielder and lead-off hitter, so it’s important that fantasy owners look at his potential value as an end game speed option.
It should not be a surprise that he was able to steal at such an impressive clip. In ’07, his 33 SB came in just 408 plate appearances, so that should have shown owners just how pesky he could be on the basepaths.
The average was a very disappointing .251, thanks in part to a .298 BABIP. He’s still a career .283 hitter and with his speed there is every reason to believe that a rebound season is going to come. Is he going to hit .320 like he did in ’07? Not likely, as that number came with a .371 BABIP, but something in the .280 should certainly be a reasonable expectation.
He is not a player that is going to work his way on base via the walk, so it is important that he improve on his average so he can continue to steal bases. He walked a career best 7.0% last season, but also had his worst OBP (.308), thanks to the problems in average. It’s amazing he was able to steal so many bases with that type of percentage, but that certainly instills hope that he can once again steal over 50 bases with everyday AB.
He has no power potential, even though he moves into Great American Ballpark. Remember, he is coming from Coors Field and has just 7 career HR over 1,973 AB. That should tell you all you need to know. He’s your prototypical slap hitting lead-off hitter, not a Ricky Henderson, Jose Reyes or Hanley Ramirez type, who will also chip in some power to help you out.
Still, you would like to see him make contact a little more often, as opposed to striking out 16.5% of the time over his entire career. If he could just learn to put the ball in play more often, imagine how dangerous he could be?
There’s a quote in a separate post on the Cincinnati Enquirer’s website (click here) where Walt Jocketty gives some thoughts about the signing. This one is of specific interest to me, “He needs to get back to way he was swinging the bat and getting on base a couple of years ago. Jamie Quirk, who’s with us now was with Willy in Colorado, feels like Willy can get back to that.” In another post (click here) there is a quote from Taveras where he says, “Jamie knows me really well. He always tells me to stay on top of my game. He knows what kind of talent I have.”
That type of familiarity could certainly go a long way and help Taveras return to form and is worth keeping an eye on.
Do I think that Taveras is a great pick for fantasy owners? No, not particularly, as all he really brings to the table is SB and maybe Runs, with Edwin Encarnacion, Jay Bruce, Brandon Phillips, Joey Votto and maybe another big bat waiting to drive him in if he gets on base. Still, you’d like to see a little bit more production in the power department, at the least, to make him more palatable.
Still, as an end game speed option, he’s a much better pick then someone like Juan Pierre, specifically because you know he is going to be playing on a daily basis. Like I said earlier, I would fully expect an improvement in the average department, while he could once again challenge for the league lead in SB. That makes him a good late round pick, but nothing more then that, especially if you lack speed from your early round picks.