Oscar Taveras #87 of the St. Louis Cardinals looks on from the dugout against the Miami Marlins at Roger Dean Stadium on February 28, 2013 in Jupiter, Florida

Oscar Taveras #87 of the St. Louis Cardinals looks on from the dugout against the Miami Marlins at Roger Dean Stadium on February 28, 2013 in Jupiter, Florida

*The death Sunday of Cardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras, a 22-year-old slugger whom many regarded as one of the top prospects in the majors, has stunned the baseball world, according to ESPN.com.

Few in the game were hit as hard as St. Louis manager Mike Matheny.

“I was asked last night to give some words regarding the tragic death of Oscar Taveras, but I just simply couldn’t,” Matheny said in a statement released Monday. “First of all, it felt like a bad dream that could not be real, and when reality kicked in, my words didn’t even seem to make sense.

“To say this is a horrible loss of a life ended too soon would be an understatement. To talk about the potential of his abilities seemed to be untimely. All I wanted to do was get the guys together and be with our baseball family. I know the hurt that comes along with buying into the brotherhood of a baseball team. That hurt is just as powerful as the joys that come with this life.”

oscar taveras bat

Taveras died in a car accident in his native Dominican Republic. He 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 130 miles north of the capital of Santo Domingo, said Col. Diego Pesqueira of the Metropolitan Transportation Agency.

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

“Not to say it is even close to the depth of pain his true family is going through, but the pain itself is just as real,” Matheny’s statement read. “The ache is deep because the relationships were deep, and forged through time and trials.

“To the many fans who have already reached out with condolences, and to the many more who are in mourning, thank you for taking these players in, like they are one of your own. This level of care is what sets our fans apart.”

Oscar Taveras #18 of the St. Louis Cardinals hits a double against the San Francisco Giants during the third inning at AT&T Park on July 2, 2014 in San Francisco, California

Oscar Taveras #18 of the St. Louis Cardinals hits a double against the San Francisco Giants during the third inning at AT&T Park on July 2, 2014 in San Francisco, California

Taveras made his major league debut this year. He hit .239 with three homers and 22 RBIs in 80 games for the NL Central champions. He was a teenager when he signed with St. Louis as an international free agent in 2008. Before this season, Taveras was ranked as the No. 3 overall prospect by MLB.com and Baseball America, and he had a .321 average over six minor league seasons.

Taveras homered against the Giants’ Yusmeiro Petit in his major league debut on May 31. He also had a big solo drive in the seventh inning of Game 2 in the NL Championship Series against San Francisco.

“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.”

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’ girlfriend, Edilia Arvelo, 18, who was in the car with Taveras, also died in the accident.

Watch highlights from Oscar’s 2014 season below: