The St. Louis Cardinals' top hitting prospect, Oscar Taveras—you might remember him as Minor League Guy—is not presently trending all over Twitter and stealing home, but he is creaming the ball in AA Springfield, and he is all of four months older than Bryce Harper. With that in mind, the start of an occasional series outlining Taveras's performance relative to Harper in 2012. Phenom Watch, Episode 1: Separated at Draft.
Taveras wasn't drafted—he's from the Dominican Republic, and was signed to the Cardinals' Dominican Summer League team in 2009, at baseball-17—and it's hard to know exactly where he would have been taken if he were eligible. That first year he hit .257/.338/.392, but it's hard to say just what that means so far from the Major Leagues. The next year, assigned to Johnson City, he hit .322/.362/.526 at baseball-18, which is definitely worthy of mention.
Of course, it was his 2011 season in the Quad Cities that made him Oscar Taveras, The Minor League Guy; that year he hit .386/.444/.584 over 78 games. And this year, he's hitting .325/.374/.658, after walking twice(!) and homering (not as surprising) in the Cardinals' 10-7 loss Sunday. Taveras's plate discipline is still an open question, but the kind of contact and power he's shown before turning 20 are extremely rare.
Harper was hitting .250/.333/.375 in the AAA International League when he was called up, probably for good; now he's hitting .308/.424/.500, with five doubles in 26 at-bats, in the Major Leagues. Advantage: Harper, but if Taveras had come up under the same high expectations it'd be interesting to see where he'd be right now.