Every other day over the next two months, John Nagel and Kyle Reis will announce a new prospect on The Redbird Daily’s Top 30 St. Louis Cardinals Prospect List. For each prospect, John and Kyle will reveal where that prospect landed on their personal lists and also few thoughts on the prospect. We hope you enjoy!
Prospect #16: Paul DeJong – 4th Round, 2015
2016 Stats: AA Springfield – 260/324/784, 29 Doubles, 22 HR, 73 RBI, 40 Walks, 144 Strike Outs
*Quick Aside: The Cardinals have had a surprising amount of success drafting in the 4th round dating back to 1980 when they drafted Ricky Horton. Other 4th round picks by the Cardinals: Curt Flood, Xavier Nady (he didn’t sign with the Cardinals), Bud Smith, Yadier Molina, Bryan Anderson, Cody Stanley, and current prospects Austin Gomber and Jeremy Martinez. Just a little nugget to treat yourself to. You deserve it!*
Kyle Reis (Prospect #15 On Personal List)
I don’t know anything about the Northern part of Illinois. The South side of Chicago seem perfectly normal, but everything else around that area is a little too Cubbie-blue for my comfort level. That is, except for a town north of Chicago called Antioch, Ill: The town that produced Paul DeJong.
In fairness, DeJong is immune to the ills and off-hued-blues of Northern Illinois because he was born and raise in Orlando, FL. He’s also immune because he chose the beautiful Redbird Red that Illinois State University wears. It has to be crazy for him. In a little under 2 years time he’ll go from being an ISU Redbird to a Memphis Redbird.
There are 3 tidbits that I want you to know about DeJong. First, and this will sound crazy, his oft-mentioned versatility is somehow understated. Scouts were COMPLETELY split on what position DeJong was going to play when he became a professional. While the majority thought that he’d end up at 3rd, I’ve read reports that said he profiled best at both second and short. Perhaps most surprising is that many scouts thought that he profiled best at catcher. An average or better defender at nearly every position in college, it’s no wonder scouts were split. He even played a little right field. As you know by now, he’s ticketed to be the starting SS in Memphis to start the year. I’ve watched DeJong play short and he looks like a more athletic, plus-armed, better-ranged version of what Jhonny Peralta gave the Cards for his first season and a half. He’s a true athlete.
The second thing I want you to know about this kid is that he’ smart. As academically accomplishment (pedigree HERE) as he was in high school, he was even more accomplished in College. He earned the MVC Commissioner’s Academic Excellence Award during all four seasons. He was on the MVC honor roll and AFNI honor roll during all four collegiate years. He was also an MVC Scholar Athlete selection during his Sophomore and Junior seasons. He accomplished all of this while leading the MVC in home runs and earning 1st team MVC and various All American honors at different points over his collegiate career. He is a born professional.
The third thing I want you to know is that Paul DeJong’s swing is really really wonderful. It’s quick. It’s compact. It’s powerful. It’s consistent. It’s always in control. The swing alone is good enough to equal major league success. He also has a solid 6’1 195 pound frame to swing that sweet stick.
DeJong struck out a lot last season. A lot. I mean, A LOT. I do expect that number to decline a tick this season. Remember, in the time span of one year he went from the MVC to Double A Springfield. That’s as rare as it is difficult. The only question I have about his bat, other than the K’s, is how much offense he’ll compromise to max-out defensively as a short stop, where I believe he will stick.
Let the record state that I am, obviously, bullish on DeJong. I’ve heard people compare him to Jedd Gyorko and other high power, low contact infielders. That seems fair. I see a more athletic Kelly Johnson with the ceiling of a higher K-ing, larger-powered Ben Zobrist. DeJong is always going to strike out and he will hardly ever walk. However, with that power, just sit back and enjoy the ride.
John Nagel (Prospect# 15 On Personal List)
This is the first time that Kyle and I have 100% agreed on where a prospect should rank. With that said, I think I may have ranked DeJong a little too low for a couple of reasons.
First, for me, are the strikeouts. In 2016, DeJong struck out 26% of the time, which is well above average. This number was much higher than when he played with the Peoria Chiefs in 2015. This should make sense as DeJong wasn’t challenged much in Peoria and went to one of the toughest levels for hitters, Double-A. I think I am unfairly weighting the strikeouts pretty heavily for him, especially considering he still had a 123 wRC+ with Springfield.
Second, I do not (maybe did not) expect DeJong to stick at shortstop. This experiment started at the end of last season with the Arizona Fall League and has continued this spring as he has made a couple of spring starts for the Cardinals. Kyle and I are equally perplexed with this transition primarily because of the lack of depth at DeJong’s old position, third base.
Shortstop is a position where I would sacrifice offense for a really strong defender, and I am not sure DeJong can be that. If the Cardinals are willing to sacrifice some of that defense for offense, DeJong could turn into a talent that is pretty rare among MLB shortstops.
As Kyle mentions, the Cardinals are building DeJong’s trade value, whether or not they plan to deal him. I am sure they want to see Aledmys Diaz continue his success from last year before making any decisions on DeJong.
DeJong is in position to be the starting shortstop for the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds in 2017. If his defense is at least average and he cuts down on the strikeouts, he could be something pretty special, probably surpassing my projection of a super utility infielder.
How we rank prospects: Click Here
Best of The Rest: Click Here
#30 Prospect: Daniel Poncedeleon
#29 Prospect: Jonathan Machado
#28 Prospect: Jeremy Martinez
#27 Prospect: John Gant
#26 Prospect: Alvaro Seijas
#25 Prospect: Nick Plummer
#24 Prospect: Jordan Hicks
#23 Prospect: Zac Gallen
#22 Prospect: Bryce Denton
#21 Prospect: Johan Oviedo
#20 Propsect: Randy Arozarena
#19 Prospect: Connor Jones
#18 Prospect: Dylan Carlson
#17 Prospect: Ronnie Williams
#16 Prospect: Paul DeJong
#15 Prospect: 3/5
#14 Prospect: 3/7
#13 Prospect: 3/9
#12 Prospect: 3/11
#11 Prospect: 3/13
#10 Prospect: 3/15
#9 Prospect: 3/17
#8 Prospect: 3/19
#7 Prospect: 3/21
#6 Prospect: 3/23
#5 Prospect: 3/25
#4 Prospect: 3/27
#3 Prospect: 3/29
#2 Prospect: 3/31
#1 Prospect: 4/2