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Closing Time: Make room for Oscar Taveras

Scott Pianowski
Roto Arcade

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Meet me in St. Louis (USAT)

Allergy season? Wedding season? Pshaw. It's callup season.

June is usually the hot pocket for prospect promotions, but the Cardinals are getting a jump on things. Outfielder Oscar Taveras, the team's most touted batting prospect since Albert Pujols, is headed to St. Louis. The move was expedited Friday night, when Matt Adams suffered a calf injury and landed on the disabled list.

"Oscar's going to get an opportunity," manager Mike Matheny confirmed. "We're going to see what he can do. You're going to see Oscar in the lineup." (Confirmed: Taveras is batting sixth, playing right field, Saturday afternoon. Allen Craig shifts to first base.)

Taveras should be fun to watch; he's an outfielder with an aggressive, slashing stroke. He'll swing at anything, and usually make contact. Taveras projects as a plus-average and plus-power guy, and while he's been a corner outfielder in the minors, he might get a shot at center field later in his career. Prospect expert Keith Law calls Taveras a left-handed Vladimir Guerrero. Every prospect hound had Taveras in their Top 5 before the season.

"I got to see Taveras hit in the Midwest League," Andy Behrens told me Saturday morning. "And it was pretty wonderful." (That's a major compliment, coming from a Cubs fan.)

Had Taveras not busted his ankle and lost most of 2013, he likely would have been on the St. Louis roster two months ago. He's played 95 games at the Triple-A level the last two years, compiling a .316/358/.495 line (12 homers, six steals; 23 walks, 47 strikeouts). He turns 22 in three weeks.

There's a wide range of outcomes for high-profile rookie debuts, of course. George Springer didn't hit a lick in April, but he's been tearing up the league in May. Mike Trout's first MLB summer was rocky, his second summer was dominant. Maybe Taveras is ready to hit the ground running, maybe he's not. No one knows.

Still, it's a fun day when these new toys arrive. Taveras is up to 45 percent ownership in Yahoo, and soon to lose his NA designation. If I were doing an outfield Shuffle Up right this second, I'd have him at $13.

And if he smashes it right away, maybe we'll have an Oscar Shuffle Up over the summer. Wilde, Gamble, Madison, The Grouch. Imagine the possibilities.

We now return you to the Gregory Polanco Watch, already in progress.

Friday was Justin Verlander Day at The Arcade, as we talked about his current value and the possibility of a selling window. The start at Safeco Field fit the script nicely: Verlander worked into the eighth inning and had his best strikeout/walk ratio since the second week of April (5 H, 3 R, 1 BB, 7 K). The radar gun was popping, regularly in the mid-90s. Here's your scouting video.

Don't overlook how much Seattle's pedestrian lineup played into this, of course. Robinson Cano wasn't in the mix, and other than Kyle Seager (homer, double), Verlander didn't have much to worry about. If only every assignment were so unthreatening. Verlander's two matchups are far more imposing: home against the Jays, road versus the White Sox (with Jose Abreu expected back by then). I still think it's a good time to try to cash in on a name brand.

On the flip side, maybe you can inquire about Hisashi Iwakuma. Seattle's normally-reliable righty was beaten by a couple of homers, a two-run job by Miguel Cabrera and a three-run rocket from Victor Martinez (preceded by an intentional walk to Miggy). No shame in that.

The Martinez at-bat was particularly impressive, an extended sequence where Iwakuma threw everything in his arsenal but couldn't quite finish off the AL's leading hitter. Eventually Martinez found a mistake (a slider that didn't slide) and deposited it into the right-field seats. "One of the best at-bats I've ever seen," Verlander noted.

Iwakuma works at Atlanta (29th in runs) next week, then returns home for a double dip (Yankees, Rangers). I'm still a full believer in Japanese Ice.

The Rockies didn't have a logical third-base solution after Nolan Arenado got hurt, and now they're getting creative. Michael Cuddyer is set to play third base Saturday at Cleveland, his first appearance at the hot corner since 2010.

Maybe Cuddyer will be a hot mess at third, but I still like the creativity from the Rockies. Good bat/bad glove is more interesting to me than bad bat/good glove. No one wants to sit through Charlie Culberson and his .185/.221/.277 slash line. And with Cuddyer at third, it makes it easier for Corey Dickerson to play (he's DHing Saturday, with Drew Stubbs in right). All in all, the wheel play is worth a shot.

And speaking of position switches, the Nationals are considering one of their own. Ryan Zimmerman (thumb) will try left field during his rehab assignment, perhaps a sign that the club doesn't want to upset its current infield. Or maybe the Nats don't want to sit through any more of Zimmerman's spotty throws from third base. Anthony Rendon is obviously an interesting infielder, no matter where the club wants him, but Danny Espinosa has been a disappointment (.205/.269/.372, albeit with six homers and four steals).

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