While Jose Ascanio was the most impressive player on the field last night, Tabata probably wasn’t far behind. It’s hard to say anything bad about a player that reaches base five times in his Triple-A debut 11 days before his 21st birthday. None of his hits were screaming rockets or anything, but he did a nice job sticking with the pitcher for all three of his singles.
I was also pleasantly surprised by his speed. His first hit was a ball in the hole between third and short that was fairly sharply hit and Reid Brignac got to it quickly and came up throwing. He’s a good defensive shortstop with a good arm, but Tabata beat the throw for an infield hit. He also looked pretty decent in center. He wasn’t tested much, but he made a nice running grab on a sinking liner hit to left-center that looked like a sure hit when it came off the bat. You can see two of his hits in the video below; his infield single in the first and his single up the middle in the ninth.
He’s not a tall guy (he’s listed at 5’11″ but I’d guess he’s bit shorter than that) and he’s certainly more solidly built than our other young, vertically-challenged center fielder, but I’m not quite sure I’d go so far as to call him “stocky.” He wasn’t tested much in center field, but he did make a nice running grab of a sinking liner that initially looked like a solid hit to left-center. We’ll never have to worry about him in center field, but what little I saw of him out there tonight leads me to think he might not be as much of a disaster out there as we initially thought. If Milledge is as bad in the field as advertised, Tabata might end up in left at some point in the future.
Watching Tabata tonight left me with an impression very similar to the one I got from watching McCutchen play for Indy at this time last year. The potential almost leaks out of his pores when he’s on the field. He’s got a great swing (as you can see for yourself above) that explains why so many scouts think he’ll hit for power and he didn’t even look a little bit out of place on a field filled with players older than he is. A lot can change in a very short period of time, but right now I’ve really got high hopes for the Milledge/McCutchen/Tabata outfield that should make its debut at some point in 2010.
Just for fun, check out the two pictures below I snapped of Tabata in the on-deck circle in the ninth inning. I didn’t crop them at all, because I wanted to make sure that it’s clear to you guys that he is in the exact same position in both pictures, despite the fact that they were snapped during two different practice swings. You could superimpose his image from the top pic onto the one from the bottom and I’m not sure there’d be any difference at all.