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St. Louis Cardinals Top Prospects #7 – Harrison Bader

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 #7: Harrison Bader – 2015 Draft, 3rd Round

2016 Stats: Springfield/Memphis – 267/335/452/786, 465 AB, 19 Doubles, 5 Triples, 19 HR, 58 RBI, 36 BB, 131 K

Kyle Reis (Prospect #7 On Personal List)

I have to admit that I am somewhat split on Harrison Bader.

You’ve been told that Harrison Bader is average in CF, and if you are using 2016 as the example, that couldn’t be any further from the truth. He’s plenty quick off of the bat, but he lacks the speed needed to be a reliable CF. The other issue is his arm. It is below average for a CF, and calling it average for LF might be hedging at this point. And, obviously, if his arm is average in LF, then it certainly isn’t good enough for RF.

I also believe that the Cardinals have evaluated Bader the same way. Bader only played CF in 25 of the 46 games after his promotion to Memphis. Now, it’s fair to point out that most of those starts in the corner came with Charlie Tilson still on the roster and while Randal Grichuk was on assignment. Still, I think it tells you that, at least in that moment, the Cardinals knew his best spot was a corner. I was never high on Tilson as a CF, either. So, take that for what it’s worth.

Then during the Arizona Fall League, Bader started six games in LF and seven in RF, while only making two appearances in CF. The AFL is where prospects go to hone their craft. Most of the time when you send your top prospects to the AFL, it’s so they can work at the position that they evaluate best at against other advanced prospects. Or, it’s to teach them a new position. Paul DeJong became a short stop in the fall league. In 2015, Aledmys Diaz played primarily SS, while getting a small taste of 2nd and 3rd.

So, that becomes my problem with evaluating Bader. To me, there isn’t a world in which he can play CF on an everyday basis. He might be the perfect LF-type, but will he hit for enough power to play everyday in LF? I honestly do not know what to think. I see the 19 HR in 465 AB and I’m amazed by that much power because of how flat his swing is. That HR amount should be an indication of just how strong Bader is, because it isn’t easy to hit that many HR with that flat of a swing.

But, that’s the beautiful thing about our #7 prospect: the kid is an absolute gamer. He is a student of the game. He is dedicated. He is working to get better every day, and we are seeing that pay off during this spring. I can tell you definitively that the spring 2017 version of Harrison Bader is a different animal than at any point during 2016. The fast track that he was put on last season, even though he was successful at Springfield, probably wasn’t fair on him or on anyone trying to evaluate him. Bader is the kind of player that will ride his intelligence and adaptability to stardom. Now, it’s just a matter of how and where the D and bat play best.

Physically, Harrison Bader is about as close to a twin of Skip Schumaker as you are going to find, even though they are nothing alike as baseball players. Bader is all strength. With a few tweaks to his approach, mostly laying off of junk pitches early in counts, Bader could easily have the bright future of a Justin Upton-type hitter, even though he is more Matt Joyce or Avisail Garcia right now.

John Nagel (Prospect #5 on Personal List)

First, let me say that I agree with Kyle on the fact that I don’t think Harrison Bader can be an effective center fielder in the major leagues. This is meant to take nothing away from him as he has enormous potential. I just want a defensive first player playing in center, much like shortstop. I would take a light hitting Magneuris Sierra there over the offensive heavy Harrison Bader. Again, not a knock on him.

Offensively, Bader’s MLB comp is Starling Marte, in my opinion. He is going to hit home runs and steal bases, but his on base average will be slightly limited and he will have his fair share of strikeouts. Marte also fits the left field mold we are trying to make for Bader. The Cardinals would be absolutely thrilled if Bader’s career follows the same path as Marte.

2016 was a tale of two seasons for 22-year old as he hit the cover off the ball in Springfield (143 wRC+), but struggled in his 161 Triple-A plate appearances (74 wRC+). The good news is while his walk rate remained the same, he actually struck out less in Memphis.

If we dig into the numbers and find out why Bader struggled after the promotion we can quickly point to the fact that he wasn’t hitting the ball as hard. As we know, the easiest way to get a hit is to hit a line drive. In Springfield, 25% of Bader’s balls in play were line drives. That is remarkably high. In Memphis, that number dropped to 15%, which is pretty low. A good number is right in the middle. This tells us that his Springfield stats were probably inflated a little, while is Memphis stats did not tell the whole story.

Bader will begin the 2017 season in the Memphis Redbirds’ outfield, likely seeing time at all three positions. If there is a sustained injury in the outfield, he could get the call and see significant MLb playing time. As far as the future, it’s hard to see where he fits in long-term. The good news is, there is no need to make that decision right now.

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: Ryan Helsley
#14 Prospect: Eli Alvarez
#13 Prospect: Jake Woodford
#12 Prospect: Dakota Hudson
#11 Prospect: Junior Fernandez
#10 Prospect: Magneuris Sierra
#9 Prospect: Edmundo Sosa
#8 Prospect: Jack Flaherty
#7 Prospect: Harrison Bader
#6 Prospect: 3/23
#5 Prospect: 3/25
#4 Prospect: 3/27
#3 Prospect: 3/29
#2 Prospect: 3/31
#1 Prospect: 4/2

Kyle Reis
Kyle is a South City St Louis born and raised. He is 30 years old and grew up at old Busch Stadium. His favorite Cardinals player of all time is Ray Lankford. Kyle is an overly simple person who loves countable baseball statistics, following minor league baseball, and friendly discourse. He tends to not take people seriously that refer for the team that they root for as "we" instead of "them".
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