2009 Impact Rookie: Jose Tabata

We’ve all sifted through Jose Tabata’s dirty laundry this week thanks to his wife. But that story should not diminish the fact that the former Yankees prospect has the potential to have an impact at the MLB level in 2009.

We’ve been hearing a lot about Tabata for a while now and the gifted outfielder is beginning his fifth pro season, but he’s still just 20 years old. He came to North America as a 16 year old in 2006. In his first four pro seasons, Tabata accumulated 1,280 at-bats and hit .296/.366/.401. He had a rough start to the 2008 season with the Yankees’ Double-A affiliate at the age of 19. He hit .248/.320/.310 with three home runs and 10 stolen bases in 294 at-bats.

Then the trade came. Tabata was shipped to the Pittsburgh Pirates as part of the loot for fellow outfielder Xavier Nady. In Double-A for Pittsburgh, the Venezuelan hit .348/.402/.562 with eight steals in 89 at-bats. This spring, while also dealing with shoulder soreness, Tabata has hit .407/.500/.556 in 27 at-bats.

The Pirates club is loaded with outfielders, which all but guarantees Tabata will begin the year in Triple-A. That would not be a bad thing given his age, inexperience and the ‘media incident’ that he had to deal with this spring. If he gets his feet underneath him quickly in Indianapolis, though, Tabata has the skill to best the likes of Nyjer Morgan, Eric Hinske and even fellow outfield prospect Brandon Moss.

Tabata has been filling out so he’s becoming less and less of a stolen base threat at this point and his power has yet to fully develop, which will hinder him offensively as a Major League right-fielder. With that said, he could still provide eight to 10 home runs, as well as 10-15 stolen bases, along with a decent average if given 400 at-bats during his first MLB season.

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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

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I don’t see the power or stolen bases this season with tabata that I was hoping for… What type of player do you see him as going forward?