WELCOME TO THE DIRTY FLIRTY.
These are my top 40 prospects in The Cardinals organization, aside from the players that I’ve already covered in The Dirty Annexes. This little ditty here is the preface to all of the post in our Dirty series. So, if you’ve read this once then you don’t need to read it again!
A warning to those looking for Lars Nootbaar, Scott Hurst, Junior Fernandez, Johan Oviedo, Jake Woodford, Edmundo Sosa, and anyone aside from Angel Rondon that has already made a major league debut: That’s not really my bailiwick, as I’m sure you’ve heard enough about those guys from more qualified outlets already. Most of those guys have exhausted their prospect status, anyway.
A reminder that this is an exercise in futility, ranking prospects. It’s a landscape that is ever-changing and developing. We are almost always talking about kids that are just starting to understand both themselves and their bodies, while learning the most difficult and nuanced sport in the land. You never know when someone is going to start doing 200 pushups per day on their way to postseason glory.
I ask for your thoughts and feedback. I ask that you have fun. I ask that you remember that I’m a moron. Most importantly, I ask that you take all of the prospect rankings from every outlet in the spirit of what they are: a snapshot of that moment, with a bent towards understanding what might come.
#8: Outfielder Nick Plummer
25 Years Old
Drafted in the 1st round of the 2015 draft
Memphis and Springfield
It’s really cool to see a kid that we’ve all questioned and doubted rise above us to regain an earned prospect status.
It’s even cooler when that kid is such a great guy. Even more, it’s really cool when that kid gets to the point where you know that he is going to make a major league debut.
Nick Plummer is a Major Leaguer. Just think about that for a second. What an awesome time to be alive and a Cardinals fan. No, he hasn’t made his major league debut yet. He is, however, a major leaguer in skill, approach, dedication, and desire. The only thing that he doesn’t have is a day in the majors.
That should change very shortly.
By now you know the story, but I’ll try to offer a quick recap. Drafted in the first round out of a cold weather state, Plummer was a prep pick that had impressed on the showcase circuit before being drafted in 2015. Plummer then missed all of 2016, a crucial year of development, to a hand/wrist injury. In 2017, Plummer went on the IL again for a month just about one week into that season.
That’s a lot of lost development time at what was probably the most crucial time in a prep draftee’s development. It’s tough to climb that hill. That was exactly the case with Plummer, and it seemed to everyone aside from Plummer that his prospect status was bleak as we entered the 2020 COVID shutdown.
Where the COVID shutdown had a negative or null impact on most prospects from my vantage point, Plummer used the break to reevaluate himself and his career. He reinvested himself, really adopted the resources available to him, got stronger, and reengineered his swing to make it quicker, shorter, and more directly purposeful through the zone.
It worked pretty well, too, as only two other prospects were as productive from a run-generating standpoint as Plummer was during the 2021 MiLB season. Only Juan Yepez and Jordan Walker produced a higher wRC+ than Plummer’s 144 between AA and AAA.
You could tell almost immediately that Plummer had reinvented himself. His swing was sharper and shorter, while maintaining it’s quickness through the zone. His timing was clearly evolved, and I’m sure that came because of renewed confidence, in part. It was so clear from the beginning of the season because Plummer was obviously hunting to do damage within every at-bat, while being more than capable of jumping on his pitch and smoking it. Not just making contact, but SMOKING it in counts that belong to hitters. He did this while working counts and laying off of tough pitches to get into counts that he was in control of.
While I was a little concerned early on that Plummer might end up being over aggressive with his newfound confidence and skill boost, my concerns were quickly washed away. He still strikes out a little too much, but it was clear that Plummer wasn’t going to be beat because he was trying to do "too much." I was overjoyed to see Plummer exhibit the same patience at the plate that he had in the past while adopting a more aggressive approach against pitches that he could do damage against. It seems simple enough to us blowhards, but that's because we are sitting here on our asses pontificating it instead of taking those pitches in the batter's box. It was clear that this version of Plummer was here to stay.
Nick Plummer was also responsible for maybe my favorite moment of the season for the system. On July 8th, Plummer put together a three-homer game against the Tulsa Drillers. It was only the second time in Springfield Cardinals' history that a player had hit three homers in a regular season game (Nolan Gorman did it earlier in the season). The magical moment came when that third homer sailed over the wall and walked off the Drillers. The second of these next two gifs still gives me chills.
The other really fun thing about Nick Plummer is that he has really tightened up his play in the outfield. I think that his arm is stronger than it has ever been, too. I think that Plummer is still best suited for center or for left, but I know that I’ve seen him do more than his fair share regardless of which spot he occupies in the outfield.
An absolute animal of a competitor, Plummer wants to catch everything and make every play. I think that you’ll notice that he might be faster than he first appeared to be, as well.
I’m anxious to see how Plummer’s slugging abilities continue to evolve. Right now, it’s not really the name of his game. He has the bat speed and strength to make the "over the fence" stuff a regular part of his game, but it’s not exactly consistently there yet. And even if it never gets to be 50 grade or better, that’s perfectly OK. That's not his game, anyway. He's too well-faceted for that.
Right now, he hits homers in bunches. With most prospects, that is usually a sign that a kid needs to be in a groove to put one over. Since power grooves are harder to get into as you climb the ladder, this is usually something that dies off accordingly. This could end up being the case with Plummer, of course. However, I’ve seen him slug the ball down the opposite field line enough to know that his power plays to all fields, as does his approach. I don’t think he’s the type of kid that is going to consistently hit 20+ homers at the next level, but I think that 15-20 in every 500-ish plate appearances is well within his capabilities. If you are looking for a current Cardinals comparison, think of Plummer's peak in-game power as something similar to Tommy Edman's 2019 power, but a little extra.
Another really terrific facet to Plummer's approach is that he can do as much damage against lefties as he can against righties. In 119 plate appearances against lefties, the left-handed swing Plummer hit 292/429/479. His strikeout rate gets a wee bit higher, but he does it without compromising his walk rate. In 359 plate appearances against right-handers, Plummer hit 276/411/479. I LOVE that matching .479 slugging percentage and .400+ OBP. All of Plummer's other stats and rates across the board stay about the same against both right-handers and left-handers. Plummer would have been one of only two players to have a .900+ OPS against both lefties and righties had he been able to raise his OPS against righties by 0.010 points. Instead, Plummer will have to settle as one of only four qualified players on the farm that had matching .800+ OPS against lefties and righties. Just amazing, really.
Plummer does more than enough to get on base and hit for doubles that you could easily envision a situation in which he does damage at the top of a major league lineup at some point. I could be wrong, but I think that there were only 12 of the 106 games that Plummer received more than one plate appearance in that he failed to reach base. I don’t know about you, but that’s what I’d like to see at the top. He'll use the entire field to get those hits, and he even has power potential to put the ball way over the center field wall as you'll see in the gif below.
At one point during the season, Plummer set the Springfield record by reaching base in 34 straight games. I loved that stretch, and for most hitting prospects in any system that would be the best and most telling/hopeful stretch of their season. That was not exactly the case for Plummer in 2021. Really, it was his last 102 plate appearances at Memphis that were my favorite of his season. I wanted to see Plummer at Memphis earlier than he was put there, but that’s getting a little off of the subject.
Anyway, Plummer raked in the most patient of ways during his time at Memphis, and sometimes at the top of their lineup. The stats above show you this, but Plummer hit 267/455/440 with three doubles, two triples, and two home runs, while striking out 17.6% of the time, walking an incredible 19.6% of the time, and putting up a AAA wRC+ of 153.
Watching Plummer rise to this challenge was a treat and a clear sign that he is a Major Leaguer in some capacity.
What an incredible journey for an incredible young man. On the cusp of the Majors as a multi-faceted hitter capable of doing so much.
A great story, a team leader, a mentor, and an inspiration to us all, Nick Plummer has it all. We should all praise and rejoice as we loudly shout, “we were wrong.”
As I just take a screenshot straight from their website, I can’t begin to stress loudly enough the important role that FanGraphs plays in the statistical side of what I do with these write-ups. Please subscribe to their service BY CLICKING THIS LINK.
In addition, you all know how important and valuable @cardinalsgifs is to the pictures that fire up these articles. He’s helped with some of the gifs along the lines, too. I wouldn’t do the write-ups if it weren’t for him.
Thank For Reading!!