Tabata Has High Upside

Jose Tabata

The Pirates prospect that has garnered the most attention in spring training is Pedro Alvarez, but the Pirates brass will be quick to remind you about outfielder Jose Tabata.

Tabata, acquired last July in a trade with the New York Yankees, is rated the Pirates' third-best prospect, and he has already turned some heads around the training camp.

"He's got some pop," third baseman Andy LaRoche said of Tabata. "I asked hitting coach Don Long about him and he said – he's a young guy, but he's got some pop and the ball makes a different sound off his bat. It's fun it makes me try to swing a little harder and hit the ball a little further.

The 20-year old Tabata is 5-11 and a compact and powerful 215 pounds. After his arrival in the Xavier Nady trade Tabata posted some solid numbers: In 22 games for Altoona, he batted .353 with three home runs. He followed that up by batting .286 with one home run and 14 RBI in the Venezuelan Winter League.

"He can swing it," Bucs outfielder Andrew McCutchen offered. "I think of Manny Ramirez every time I see him swing because he is that powerful and that quick through the zone. He has a lot to offer for the team."

"He reminds me of Manny Ramirez," Former Pirates All-Star and catching instructor Manny Sanguillen explained. "Tabata looks that good – we have a couple of guys in camp that can really destroy it."

Pirates hitting coach Don Long is a little more cautious in his appraisal of Tabata.

"Slow down – let's let him play," Long said. "When you put a tag like that on a young hitter – that's tough to do. We just want to get him to be the best Jose Tabata that he can be and see where he's at. Obviously he's played at a high level for his age – he was in Double A last year at a young age 19 turning 20 while he was in Double A – so in terms of where he's at and progression from level to level he's ahead of the game."

While they are cautious the coaching staff is impressed with Tabata's skills.

"He's impressed me and for his age he's obviously a strong young man," Long stated. "He's got things that he needs to work on, but overall in terms of a young hitter who has strength in his swing and can drive the ball – he's ahead of the game there."

Tabata is on the shelf right now, an MRI done on his right shoulder came back showing some mild rotator cuff inflammation, but no structural damage.

"He does have some mild rotator cuff inflammation but is able to return to some activities as (the pain is) tolerated," said Pirates general manager Neal Huntington.

The Pirates had Tabata undergo the medical exam after he alerted the Pirates' medical staff to some recent soreness in that shoulder.

Tabata will likely hold back from throwing for a week in order to let the inflammation subside. After a week indications are that Tabata will be able to return to activities as tolerated.

Tabata is 0-for-3 with three walks so far in Grapefruit League action. But he has caught the eye of Pirates skipper John Russell.

"He's done very well," Russell reported. "He's right on time with what we want him to do as far as learning and developing and he's swinging the bat very well. He's a strong player and we're excited to have him. He's got some tools that people keep talking about – Pedro Alvarez obviously has great tools, but this kid's kind of fun to watch as well. We're very happy to have him. I think he's going to be a big addition for us going forward."

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