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Viva El Birdos Cardinals Top Prospects: #17 Bryce Denton

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A Justin Upton-like potential is high praise

St. Louis Cardinals v Atlanta Braves Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

Editor’s Note: the red baron has once again written up a very large number of prospects, done a great job on them, and combined them in just a few posts. You can read those posts, including a dozen reports on players who just missed the list by going here. This post contains a write-up of just a single prospect in a perhaps easier to digest form.-CE

#17: Bryce Denton, 3B/OF

6’0”, 190 lbs; R/R; 1st August 1997

Relevant Stats: 8.9% BB, 16.4% K, 109 wRC+, 18 years old (Johnson City)

So, what’s so great about this guy?

I admit, I initially had Denton higher when I began this list a couple months ago (at least the doodling phase), owing to the fact he put up a better than league average line at just eighteen years old and flashing some very intriguing tools.

The reason he appears lower than I had ranked him back then is found right next to his name up above there. See the bit that says 3B/OF? Well, that’s an indication that, while Denton played at the hot corner the entire season this year for Johnson City, he was moved to the outfield in postseason instructional league. I’m holding out hope something will happen to push him back to third, but for now all indications are the move is permanent.

And that’s a real shame, because I think it’s premature. Much as the Cardinals did when moving Tommy Pham off shortstop so early in his career, I think they’re giving up on the tougher road before they need to. Denton’s error totals in the Appy League this year were rough, but he has the tools to improve, I think. For now, though, it looks like the organisation has chosen the path of least resistance, and while I understand why, I disagree with the move all the same.

As for the offensive part of the scouting report, though, Denton showed marked improvement this year moving up to Johnson City after struggling in his debut in the GCL last season. He improved his walk rate, improved his strikeout rate, hit for more power (though still far less power than I expect down the road), and in general made very loud contact.

The downside to that loud contact is that too much of it came in the form of groundballs, particularly early in the season. Pitches worked him at the bottom of the zone, and Denton pounded the ball into the ground reliably. As the season went on, he began to adjust and hit more balls on a line or in the air, but he’ll need to learn better where to look for pitches to lift and drive going forward.

Denton’s best quality is still his elite batspeed, which gives him one of the higher offensive ceilings in the entire organisation for me. He’s a slightly above-average runner, features a strong enough throwing arm to play right field instead of left, and comes across as a kid dedicated to the game to a level that’s notable, even by prospect standards.

The move to the outfield means the bat will have to play better, and that bumps Denton down a bit in my estimation. He’s still one of my guys in the system, though, that I believe in more than the rational part of my brain might counsel.

Player Comp: The move to the outfield actually makes this comp even more apt; I think there’s potentially a Justin Upton type bat in Denton’s physical tools.