Oscar Taveras, Cardinals outfield prospect, dies in car accident

Authorities say St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras has died in a car accident in the Dominican Republic. The 22-year-old made his major league debut this year, hitting .239 in 80 regular-season games.

Dominican/Canadian, 22, hit. 239 in rookie MLB season in 2014

Cardinals rookie outfielder Oscar Taveras died in a car accident Sunday near his home in the Dominican Republic. The 22-year-old debuted in the major leagues this season, hitting .239 in 80 regular-season games. (Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras, a 22-year-old slugger who was regarded as one of the majors' top prospects, died Sunday in a car accident in his native Dominican Republic.

Taveras was driving a 2014 Chevrolet Camaro at the time of the crash on a highway between the beaches of Sosua and Cabarete in Puerto Plata, about 346 kilometres (215 miles) north of the capital of Santo Domingo, said Col. Diego Pesqueira of the Metropolitan Transportation Agency.

"He wasn't carrying documents at the time of the accident, but his body was identified by family members," Pesqueira said.

Tragic deaths of MLB players

  • SP Nick Adenhart, age 22, died April 9, 2009: Killed by drunk driver.​
  • 1B Harry Agganis, 25, died June 27, 1955: Massive pulmonary embolism.
  • OF Roberto Clemente, 38, died Dec. 31, 1972: Plane crash.
  • OF Mike Darr, 25, died Feb. 15, 2002: Automobilie accident.
  • OF Greg Halman, 24, died Nov. 21, 2011: Stabbing.
  • RP Josh Hancock, 29, died April 29, 2007: Car accident.
  • SP Darryl Kile, 33, died June 22, 2002: Coronary atherosclerosis (narrowing of arteries).
  • SP Cory Lidle, 34, died Oct. 11, 2006: Plane crash.
  • C Thurman Munson, 32, died Aug. 2, 1979: Plane crash.
  • Ps Steve Olin, 27, Tim Crews, 31, died in spring training 1993: Boating accident.

National police spokesman Jacobo Mateo Moquete said he was told by the mayor of Sosua that Taveras lost control of his vehicle and went off the road.

Taveras made his major league debut this year. He hit .239 with three homers and 22 RBIs in 80 games for the National League Central champions.

"I simply can't believe it," Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said in a release. "I first met Oscar when he was 16 years old and will forever remember him as a wonderful young man who was a gifted athlete with an infectious love for life who lived every day to the fullest."

Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. said the organization was "stunned and deeply saddened" by Taveras's death.

"Oscar was an amazing talent with a bright future who was taken from us well before his time," DeWitt said. "Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends tonight."

Taveras was a teenager when he signed a free-agent deal with the Cardinals in 2008. Before this season, Taveras was ranked as the No. 3 overall prospect by MLB.com and Baseball America, and had a .321 average over six minor league seasons.

He homered in his major league debut on May 31, a solo shot against Yusmeiro Petit of the San Francisco Giants.

"I think he can be a star," manager Mike Matheny said last Monday at his season-ending press conference. "He proved that at times. Right to the end, he was very, very much into the competition. Yes, he wanted to be the guy out there every day. You see some things offensively that absolutely excite you."

Have a look at this Taveras highlight package from this season.

Taveras held a Canadian passport. He spent four years as a teenager living in Montreal with his father, Francisco Taveras, and played for the Marquis de Montreal of the Quebec midget triple-A league before moving back to the Dominican Republic.

Baseball commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement that Taveras was "at the dawn of a wonderful career in our game."

"All of us throughout Major League Baseball are in mourning this evening, shocked by the heartbreaking news of the accident involving Cardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras and his girlfriend in the Dominican Republic," Selig said.

It looked as if Taveras was headed to the majors in 2013, but he had surgery for a high right ankle sprain last August for an injury that did not respond to treatment. He then got off to a nice start at triple-A Memphis this season, earning a promotion by batting .325 with seven homers in 49 games.

"Oscar had a very promising future, on and off the field, and this news is heartbreaking on many levels," Tony Clark, the leader of the players' association, said in a statement. "It's never easy to lose a member of our fraternity, and to lose one so young is devastating news."

Giants outfielder Juan Perez heard about Taveras's death during Game 5 of the World Series. He hit a big two-run double in the eighth inning of San Francisco's 5-0 victory and dedicated the hit to his fallen countryman.

"He's a really close friend of mine," Perez said. "I know his family pretty good, I know his mom, his dad, his brothers, we were really close. It's a huge loss for all his family, his teammates and the people that care about him."

Several of Taveras's Cardinals teammates took to Twitter to express their condolences.

"Last 30 minutes I've been sick to my stomach. Keep thinking about Oscar's big smile in the dugout whenever we made a big play/got a big hit," all-star reliever Pat Neshek posted.

Rookie second baseman Kolten Wong tweeted: "RIP you will be missed buddy."

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