St. Louis Cardinals star outfield prospect Oscar Taveras has been likened to a left-handed version of Vladimir Guerrero.

Starting the season in Triple-A with the Memphis Redbirds, Taveras is ranked the second best hitter in the minors behind Texas Rangers shortstop Jurickson Profar.

The Cardinals most celebrated outfield prospect in a generation, Taveras already has won three batting titles at age 17, 18 and 19. All three teams won league championships.

The reason Taveras, 20, has been compared to Guerrero is he's a free swinger that finds a way to make solid contact on pitches several inches out of the strike zone. It's a unique talent to square up a pitcher's pitch.

“He has superb hand-eye coordination,” said Memphis infielder Greg Garcia. “He hasn't seen a pitch he doesn't like to hit, but he can barrel up a lot of balls. It doesn't really matter where the pitch is he makes good contact.”

Taveras displayed those skills Friday night at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark in the opening game of a four-game series against the Oklahoma City RedHawks.

Going 4 for 5, Taveras lined opposite-field singles to left his first two at bats. In his fourth at bat, Taveras turned on an inside pitch, yanking it down the right-field line for a double. In his final plate appearance, he beat out an infield single on a roller to short.

“He's a special player,” said Memphis teammate Kolten Wong. “He can bunt, run, hit and throw, basically does everything very well.”
Wong, a first-round pick who projects to be the Cardinals second baseman of the future, has played with Taveras the past two seasons at Class A Quad Cities and Double-A Springfield.

Taveras hit .322 his first full season. Two years ago he won the Midwest League batting title with a .386 average, the highest in the league since 1956.

Last season Taveras skipped a level, won the Texas League Player of the Year award, batting .321 with 23 home runs and 94 RBIs in 124 games.

He did all that in Double-A. At age 19.