Can We Kiss Jose Tabata Goodbye?

Jose Tabata

throws before a spring training game in Florida

Perhaps being around roster starved players at the Pittsburgh Pirates spring training camp has impacted Jose Tabata.   Certainly having Alex Presley, Felix Pie, Jerry Sands, Darren Ford and Brad Hawpe at least complicates the Piraes outfield depth chart.  Especially when most of those players are hitting the ball well this spring.

Add Jose Tabata to the list of Bucs outfielders doing some solid work early in Bradenton.   Well, actually Joe Tabata, that’s the name Clint Hurdle uses when he barks encouragement from the Buccos dugout.

Welcome Back Jose Tabata.  I mean Joe.

Each spring the Pittsburgh Pirates have gone to spring training a story of some sort emerges.  Garrett Jones was a great story.  Neil Walker‘s collection of whatever fielders glove he needed to wear to make the 25 man was a good one.  A.J. Burnett made quite an impact too.

But the Jose Tabata story is pretty well known.

Mystery around his age has existed for a few years.  The attitude problems that might have caused the Yankees to give up on him dogged his first few years with the Bucs.  The wife who felt the need to steal someone else’s baby was insane.  But the real story was his resurgence in the Pirates system.

And his falling off the face of the earth was also a story.  Just not one that Pirates fans enjoy reading.

In 2010, Tabata was a good player.  The 5’11 outfielder was around average–the on-base of .346 sure looks nice after the pathtic numbers from Pirates leadoff hitters in 2012.

Trying to imagine Tabata in the leadoff spot looks exciting right now.  We’re just not sure if he can sustain the power he is showing this spring.  He is hitting doubles.  (It’s hard to even remember a leadoff double in the Buccos lineup in the past few seasons)   While we were in Bradenton, we saw him pull a few balls which is a good sign too, he’s not just flaring balls to right field as we have all seen in the past.

The bottom line is Tabata has ripped balls in BP and also in his 13 at-bats.  The guy whose baseball card says he was born in 1988 is working the counts.   The Bucs outfielder has flashed the ability, that at the very least, makes us imagine what the lineup would look like with Tabata at the top and Marte down in the order.

Look it’s early, but it doesn’t hurt to drool a little bit.  The only real question is this–is Jose Tabata going to be able to do this over the course of a season?   After sparking the interest of so many Buccos fans–especially Cocktails–the 24-year old has been disappointing in recent years despite numerous opportuntities by the ballclub to hand him a job.

2011 was filled with injuries and downright suckiness.

2012 saw the Bucs leadoff hitter limp into June not even hitting 220 which pushed him down in Clint Hurdle’s continually changing batting order.   Tabata looked lost.

Hitting lower in the order was a failure too.  It didn’t take long until he was rocking the Indianapolis Indians jersey in July and through early August.  After his return, he saw limited action and only seven doubles with no bombs, no steals–or basically, very little meat on his .284 batting averrage.  Tabata also made the final out of the 2013 collapse.

So with a crowded outfield, at least in terms of bodies, not necessarily Major League ready talent, Jose Tabata is pushing his ‘best shape of his life’ body to the top of pile.

One look at him it’s easy to see Tabata does look better, let’s just trust it continues.  However, the verdict on the new red lips neck tattoo is still out, but it’s good to know that the  Clemente tattoo still exists in there somewhere too.