Prospect #6, OF Harrison Bader
Age To Start The 2018 Season: 23
Drafted In The 3rd Round Of The 2015 Draft
In conjunction with my friend Colin Garner over at The Redbird Daily, we present to you our combined list of the Top 30 Prospects in the Cardinals organization! Every other day for the next two months, From January 28th until March 29th, we will be presenting you with an exhaustive evaluation on each of the top 30 prospects in the organization starting with prospect #30 and counting down to prospect #1. This is our combined list, not our own individual lists. For additional information on how we came these rankings, CLICK HERE. Without further delay, we present...
AAA wRC+: 111 MLB wRC+: 70
Kyle Reis (Prospect #4 On Personal List, Prior To Combining Lists With Colin Garner)
What I like most about Harrison Bader, is that he is the epitome of maxed out potential. What I mean by that is, Harrison Bader is such a hard worker and a baseball "rat" that he's maxed out his potential. When I first watched Bader in 2015, the year that the Cardinals drafted him, I saw an undersized outfielder who lacked the quickness or arm to play center at the major league level. I also saw a player that didn't have the bat/power potential to profile as a corner outfielder. He seemed like an excellent little fifth outfielder with a ceiling of a fourth outfielder, but nothing more than that.
"Bader bing, Bader boom! No, this is not the same play. Pair of sweet grabs today for Harrison Bader" - @mlbpipeline
2:49 PM - 16 Mar 2018
I still wasn't a believer even after Bader continued to impress after entering the system. The defense just wasn't there for center field. He was adding a little power, but he was swinging too much. Bader finished the 2017 season at Memphis, and you could see that he was making strides, but it wasn't there. So, evaluation adjustment happened. I no longer saw Bader as fourth outfielder ceiling. He was absolutely a perfect fourth outfielder. He could play enough center to "not hurt a team." That's how I described him.
Oh my, oh my, was I wrong.
Sometimes, when evaluating a player, you don't pay enough attention to the man that the player is. Harrison Bader is a professional. He's maxed out every one of his skills because he takes his trade seriously. Where he was once a weak-fielding, soft-armed center fielder, he is now a quick center fielder that covers a stellar amount of ground.
His arm used to be average, at best. Now, it's average and flashing more. Where he once had ten to fifteen home run power potential, he now has fifteen to twenty with a max out of twenty-five home run potential.
Bader progressed past expectation because he's a hard worker that wants to be the best. Good for Harrison. His "bull in a China shop" and "first to third" style of baseball is a perfect fit for Cardinals Nation.
Bader had a tremendous 2017 season. The way that his power has developed has been my favorite part of Bader's progression. Twenty home runs in 431 Triple-A at-bats will play. The 15 bases that he stole at Memphis was a pleasant little surprise. He also managed to do what so many others on this list will not do: make a major league impact. His mad dash from 3rd to home on July 25th to score the game-winning run against the Rockies was one of the best highlights of the 2017 season.
The obvious area of complaint with Bader is that he strikes out too much and he doesn't walk enough. His strikeout percentage has buoyed around the 24% mark during both of his full seasons in the organization. What is alarming is that the rate went up from 2016 to 2017 at Triple-A by one whole point. Granted, the sample size from 2017 was about three times the sample size from 2016, but it shows you that Bader has sacrificed a little patience for power.
It is a good sign that his walk rate at Memphis went up, from 6.8% in 2016 to 7.1% in 2017. Still, a 7% walk rate isn't going to cut it. Those two rates, the strikeout and walk rates, foreshadow a Randal Grichuk-esque approach at the major leagues. Both of those numbers have stayed relatively the same throughout his time in the minors, and that makes me worry about his ability to adjust at the major league level.
Bader is probably the fastest prospect in the organization from home to first, and he can steal bases, but it just hasn't materialized successfully yet. This is a minor complaint of mine because I really don't care about stolen bases, but if he's going to "go" then he needs to get better at it. In 2016 he stole 13 bases, but he was thrown out 13 times. Then, he stole 17 total bases in 2017 while being thrown out ten times. It's getting better, at least, but it needs to get even better than that. I would like to state that this is something that I believe he is capable of getting better at doing.
If I'm comparing Harrison Bader to anyone, it's former first-round pick and current free agent outfielder Travis Snider. There is a player that I mentioned above that I think Bader could ultimately mirror: Aaron Rowand was an eleven-year major league veteran that put the game before himself. That's what Harrison Bader is if there is, indeed, more potential to milk.
As always, these articles can't be done without Fangraphs and Baseball Reference. They are equally as reliant on the skills of Cardinalsgif's and NChill17. It's a pleasure to do this list with my friend Colin Garner at The Redbird Daily.
Thanks For Reading!