Many words have been used to describe Oscar Taveras' swing: Powerful, unique, unorthodox, even ugly.
But Joe Kruzel, the Cardinals prospect's hitting coach at Single-A Quad Cities last year, is almost offended by the idea someone would call it ugly.
"It's like that movie, 'Shallow Hal,'" Kruzel said. "People thought that big girl was ugly, but Shallow Hal thought she was beautiful."
Apparently that makes Taveras Gwyneth Paltrow.
No matter the semantics, the 19-year-old outfielder's swing is generating results and has pushed him to a spot as one of the top position prospects in all of baseball.
His numbers at Double-A Springfield this year, a .322 average with 12 home runs, put him in the conversation for Texas League MVP as a teenager.
It was the same at Quad Cities in 2011, where he hit .386 with 8 home runs, and Johnson City in 2010, where he hit .322 with 8 home runs.
But the numbers alone don't tell the story with Taveras, who certainly gets his money's worth every time up.
Thanks to a unique stance and some noise at the end of his swing, he can appear wild at the plate. He still has a tendency to swing at pitches outside the zone.
But his hitting coaches, including Kruzel and Phillip Wellman, his current coach at Springfield, say the swing is actually short and low-maintenance.
"He has tremendous hand-eye coordination," Wellman said. "He's as short to the ball as anyone."
Kruzel said the follow-through can mask an otherwise compact swing.
"He's unique because he has a knack for getting the barrell to the ball," Kruzel said. "He doesn't have too much wasted movement."
Kruzel said more than 40 percent of his hits at Quad Cities came with two strikes.
Those strikes can pile up when Taveras is chasing. It's something coaches have worked with him on at every level.
"The last thing I want to do is take any type of aggressiveness away," Wellman said. "The only time he gets in trouble is when he can't get to pitches that are chest-high or ankle-high."
Because Taveras has the natural ability to get to pitches out of the zone and drive them, he still has the confidence to swing at those pitches. But he's learning that's not always a good idea.
As he advances in levels, it's not as easy take a pitch at his eyes and drive it for a double, or golf a breaking ball for a home run.
"He's a smart kid. He's got a great hitter's IQ," Wellman said. "He's figuring it out."
There are more and more nights when teams pitch around Taveras, recognizing he's the biggest threat in the lineup.
He's taking more walks, but there will still be nights like June 1, when he went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and two ground-ball outs against San Antonio.
But it's all part of gaining knowledge and experience, and that might be the only thing holding him back.
"I told our farm director I think he can hit in the big leagues right now," he said. "But he's 19 years old. There are things that make you a great player besides hitting."
While he works on staying in the zone, throwing to the right bases and improving his base running, Taveras gets closer to the sky-high ceiling scouts have predicted for him.
"Accumulating knowledge and experience is the only thing holding him back right now," Wellman said. "That's how special he is."
And for those describing Taveras's swing, don't call it ugly.
"The next time somebody tells you he's got an ugly swing, ask them this," Kruzel said. "Ask them if they want to hit .330 with an ugly swing, or have a pretty swing and hit .230."
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