Editor's Note: Red Baron has compiled this year's top prospects in three parts, which can be found by clicking on Part I, Part II, and Part III. The post below is a portion of those massive posts, focusing in on a single prospect at a time, which should make a search of any one prospect easier to find. All of our 2016 prospect coverage and write-ups can be found at the Viva El Birdos 2016 Prospects hub.
#14: Nick Plummer, OF
Opening Day 2016 Age: 19
2015 Level: Gulf Coast League
Relevant Numbers: 14 XBHs in 228 PAs, 16.7% BB rate, 127 wRC+
So, what's so great about this guy?
Nick Plummer, if he makes it to the big leagues as anything resembling the player we saw in his first professional action, will stand as a triumph of a scouting department. As a cold-weather player (Michigan), who played his high school ball in a league that begins all players with a 1-1 count, assessing how good Nick Plummer really is was, to put it lightly, difficult. There are times when hidden gems fall through the cracks due to unusual circumstances; it's possible Plummer may be just such a player.
The first and most notable thing about Plummer is his command of the strike zone. High school players rarely come into pro ball with a feel for the zone equal to Plummer's; the fact he's also a cold-weather player, this having even more limited playing experience, and the bizarre rules of his home league, make his approach almost unfathomable. This is a player who spits on pitches on the edges of the zone, refusing to get himself out to a degree rarely seen in players at the major league level, much less getting their feet wet in the Gulf Coast League.
That being said, the downside to that patience was an elevated strikeout rate; Plummer whiffed in nearly a quarter of his plate appearances. It's impossible to know if poor umpiring may have played a part in that number, but we've seen Matt Carpenter rung up on innumerable borderline calls over the past few years; it isn't difficult to imagine Plummer suffering a similar fate if he refuses to expand his zone even to the extent of what is being called.
Physically, Plummer has above-average bat speed, another point in the mini-trend of the Cards' 2015 draft class. That should allow him at least average, and possibly better, power down the road, although he's probably never going to be a thumper. He runs well, probably at least a 55 on the 20-80 scale, and has good instincts on the bases. He needs refinement as a basestealer, but I think that's possible for him, given his feel for the game.
Defensively, there's a definite question as to Plummer's eventual position. If you see him as a center fielder, you likely look at the foot speed and assume he can chase down balls in the gaps quite easily. Myself, I'm more skeptical, and think he ends up moving to a corner. His arm is...Jon Jayish, and so he's limited to left field. His value will take a hit if he's forced to move to left, though I will say I think he could be quite a good defender over there. As a left-handed thrower, he's limited positionally, unless one wanted to imagine him as a Gregg Jefferies sort of first baseman. Which seems somewhat of a bad fit, to be honest.
I'm unsure how well Plummer will grade defensively, but I have more confidence in the bat. He has remarkable knowledge of the zone for such a young player, even without considering all the other unusual circumstances under which he's played. Plummer tore up the showcase circuit in 2014, netting himself plenty of draft hype, and was even in the conversation at one point as a potential 1/1 candidate. The fact his path to the draft was so unusual, and he fell to where the Cardinals were able to take him, could end up a huge boon for the club in a couple years.
Player Comp: Bobby Abreu, as a moderate-power on-base machine who plays above-average defense in a corner outfield spot and adds plenty of value on the bases.