His birth certificate and passport say outfielder Jose Tabata was born Aug. 12, 1988, in Anzoategui, Venezuela. Yet, during a recent radio interview, general manager Neal Huntington admitted there are “a lot of rumblings” that Tabata might actually be in his mid-20s.
In Latin America, record-keeping can be spotty, especially when it comes to youngsters with excellent baseball skills. The New York Yankees investigated Tabata’s background in 2005 and, satisfied he truly was 16, signed him as an undrafted free agent.
The Pirates are not publicly disputing Tabata’s age, and yet …
“All of the documentation he has used to obtain his visa from the U.S. government and his passport from the Venezuelan government indicates his reported age is accurate,” Huntington said in an e-mail to the Tribune-Review. “Apart from unfounded speculation, there is nothing to indicate his age any different than reported. My point is that while we have reason to doubt his reported age, it is a non-issue to us.”
The Pirates likely have no issue with this simply because there is not much they can do about it at this point. If Tabata is actually 25, he will lose an immense amount of value, going from a precocious 21 year old to a player a bit old for his level, and there is nothing the Pirates can do to forestall that. Tabata has always been about projection and potential rather than performance, such that any years added to his age will do more damage to his status as a prospect than it would to someone who has been able to perform at a high level in the minors. The constant refrain that his power will come later might lose all of its validity if he is already in his mid-20′s. Although the Yankees did not get exactly what they had hoped from that trade, it seems like the questions surrounding Tabata may have been valid all along.
Photo Credit: Mike Ashmore’s Thunder Thoughts
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