Here’s what Jose Tabata’s done in the first ten games this year: hit in every game, drawn nearly two walks (seven total) for every strikeout (four total), halved last year’s home run total in a tenth of the games, and stolen five bases in six tries. His triple-slash line is .342/.457/.553.
This is obviously a hot streak and Tabata’s (probably) not a .340 hitter over the course of the season. It’s also not all that likely that he’ll continue to get on base one out of every two times up at the plate. He’ll have his share of cold streaks because all hitters do, especially 22-year olds with less than a full season of big league experience. On the other hand, remember that he went through every level of the minors at a very young age (Bryce Harper is actually a year older in Sally League than Tabata was) and had a career .297/.365/.405 line. His triple-slash line at each stop mirrored that overall line pretty closely, and then he came close to it again in his Pirate debut last year hitting .299/.346/.399 in 102 games with the Pirates. He was even better after the All-Star break, after he adjusted a bit to the big leagues. Before the season, my biggest question about Tabata was whether that minor league line represented a ceiling, or whether he’d take off now that there’s nowhere else to promote him to. By the All-Star break, he should have more at-bats as a Pirate than he had at any of his minor league stops and so this is really his first extended stay at any level in his entire career.
But when he has a weekend like the one he just had against the Rockies — where he works every count deep, where he hits laser home runs to dead center field and bangs doubles off of the right field fence almost as easily as he drops singles just over infielders’ heads — I can’t help but watch him at the plate and aim a little bit higher. I can’t help but ask myself, “Just how good of a hitter could this kid be?” Sometimes, it’s fun to not have all the answers.