This article was originally published at the Redbird Daily by Colin Garner, and is now proud to call the Cards Conclave home. Throughout July, we’ll be re-running all 30 Prospect articles as we lead up to Colin’s Mid-Season Prospect Update later in the month.
In Collaboration with Kyle Reis and Birds On The Black, Colin Garner presents you with The Cardinals Top 30 Prospects! Today, we have #6, Harrison Bader.
6. Harrison Bader – CF
3rd Round – 2015 Draft
Entering age-24 season
wRC+ – AAA: 111, MLB: 70
|2017||23||STL-min||AAA||123||479||431||74||122||18||1||20||55||15||9||34||118||.283||.347||.469||.816||202||3||10||1||3||0||MEM · PCL|
What I Like
Think back to Harrison Bader’s MLB debut. He lined a double down the left field line, advanced to third, and scored on a shallow fly ball to right field. That game, in a nutshell, describes the type of player Bader could be if he reaches his peak.
Bader is the type of position player prospect the Cardinals have been extremely successful in developing: a college player, right-handed, with the potential for plus power. Bader’s power began to manifest itself in Double-A in 2016, where he went deep 16 times in 82 games. His plate discipline profile, 7 percent walk rate and 26 percent strikeout rate, have been relatively steady throughout his development. In Springfield, however, he started putting the ball in play hard and had success.
Last season, at Triple-A Memphis, Bader’s numbers mirrored his 2016 numbers in Springfield. He slashed .283/.347/.469 in Memphis and .283/.351/.497 in Springfield two years ago. He struggled after a mid-2016 promotion to Memphis, but after adjustments, he had just as much success in Memphis last year as he did in his breakout 2016 in Springfield.
In some ways, Bader is the perfect fourth outfielder. He plays hard. Like, really hard. Last year, it was a breath of fresh air for a fanbase that had seen a slip in fundamentals over the last two seasons. He has enough power to hit a few homers (I didn’t realize he hit three last year), enough speed to steal a base, and was +3 in defensive runs saved in 188 innings.
What I Don’t Like
Like many Cardinals prospects, Bader strikes out too much. He’s struck out in over 26 percent of his plate appearances in his professional career, and there’s been little to suggest that will change anytime soon. After a hot start in his first stint with the big league club, Bader’s propensity to chase off-speed pitches out of the zone was exposed and the Cardinals were forced to demote him. I highly doubt Bader will be able to cut his strikeout rate into the “above average” category of 16 percent, but “average” (about 20 percent) is certainly possible and should be a goal of his this season. Likewise, his walk rate is also below average but if he cuts his strikeout rate his walk rate would almost certainly rise.
I love Bader’s style of play and think he’s a great fourth outfielder, but I have questions about how it will effect his development. He only made the necessary adjustments to Triple-A pitching after getting plate appearances every day.
There’s a chance Bader could get plenty of at-bats. Dexter Fowler and Tommy Pham have extensive injury histories, and Marcell Ozuna can’t play every day. But Jose Martinez, one of the most productive hitters on the Cardinals roster last year, could start in right field in a pinch. Consistent at-bats are the most important thing for a player’s development, especially when they’re at a new level. It’s why we had such a problem with Carson Kelly‘s lack of playing time, and assigning him to Triple-A was the right move.
Bader is almost certainly ready for the majors. We saw it in his spurts of success in 2017. I just hope he plays enough to be a little bit better, but most importantly a little bit more consistent.
Thanks for reading!