Righthander Jose Taveras has been such an eye-opener the last two seasons that he probably will earn a spot on the 40-man roster this offseason.
The 24-year-old Taveras led all Phillies minor leaguers in strikeouts the last two seasons. He was the starting and winning pitcher in the high Class A Florida State League all-star game in 2017, when he pitched his way to Triple-A Lehigh Valley and made seven starts.
Taveras is efficient and aggressive with a three-pitch mix that includes a plus changeup. But what may end up setting him apart is his intellect.
“He’s smart and prepared,” farm director Joe Jordan said. “When you watch a game with him, it’s like sitting with an advance scout. He’s an impressive guy in the stands. He’s not just sitting there charting pitches, going through the motions. He’s watching the game, coming up with a plan for how he can get that lineup out. He’s very baseball savvy.”
Taveras was 20 when the Phillies signed him for just $5,000 out of the Dominican Republic in November 2013. Other teams backed off because he didn’t throw hard enough.
His fastball tops out in the low 90s, but he complements the pitch with deception, a slider and that excellent changeup. He led the low Class A South Atlantic League with 154 strikeouts in 137.1 innings in 2016. He led the organization in strikeouts (140) and innings (154.1) in 2017, when he recorded a 2.22 ERA in 25 starts at three levels.
“He’s just a good pitcher,” Jordan said. “The beauty of Jose is that it doesn’t matter where he’s at or what lineup he’s facing. He knows what he wants to do, and he goes out and does it . . . The sum is greater than any one pitch.”
While other pitchers have received more attention in an improving system, Taveras has clearly earned his way onto the Phillies’ list of top pitching prospects. He will likely open back at Triple-A in 2018 and could be in Philadelphia before the season is over.