The St. Louis Cardinals are calling up another position player prospect. This season has seen the debuts of Magneuris Sierra, Paul DeJong, and Luke Voit, and Carson Kelly recently made his return to the majors. It is Harrison Bader’s turn to make his debut for the Cardinals as the team announced his promotion while returning Dexter Fowler to the disabled list.
Harrison Bader climbed the ranks of the minors very quickly. Drafted in the third round back in 2015, he reached Triple-A by the end of last season. That quick escalation turned out to be a detriment in getting up to the majors because he didn’t need to be placed on the 40-man roster at the end of last season for Rule Five Draft protection. Magneuris Sierra, already on the 40-man roster, got the call when needed earlier in the season despite Bader’s superior minor league production. The days of being passed over appear to be over for Bader as the Cardinals are calling him up to the majors.
Bader has hit .297/.354/.517 in 381 Triple-A appearances this year, good for a 122 wRC+ in Memphis. Bader has good power, with 19 homers and a .220 ISO. That power and good contact off the bat have masked a slightly below average 24% strikeout rate and 6% walk rate. As we have seen with Paul DeJong and previously in Randal Grichuk, that is the type of profile that can come up and do some damage even if we aren’t exactly sure how long it will last.
Dexter Fowler was placed on the disabled list in late June with a heel problem, but returned to the Cardinals earlier this month. We don’t want to read too much into the 56 plate appearance sample since returning, especially given his walk and strikeout numbers were normal, but the power Fowler showed earlier in the season did not return after missing time. He has just two extra base hits during that time, and it is possible Fowler needs a bit more time to heal that heel.
Update: The listed reason for Fowler is a forearm strain, which might also affect power. In any event, he will get some rest.
Tommy Pham took over in center field the last time Fowler went on the disabled list and presumably he will head back there now. While Bader has played center field in the minors, his future might be in a corner and he lacks the abilities of Pham. With Stephen Piscotty still on the disabled list, that means the outfield for right now is Pham, Randal Grichuk, and Harrison Bader with Jose Martinez off the bench.
Update: Harrison Bader is starting in center field tonight so we will get to see how ready he is out there.
As far as prospects go, Bader probably isn’t a top-100 guy, but he is likely in the next 100. Keith Law had him in his just missed list to start the season, and was somewhere between three and 11 among Cardinals prospects by reputable outlets, as well as us here at Viva El Birdos. If Bader can hit and play center field full-time, he will outpace those rankings in the big leagues. If he can’t handle center or increase his hitting a bit, his future is a bit murkier.
For now, Bader is going to get his shot to show what he can do at the big league level. While we could characterize what we are seeing right now as influx of young talent to prepare for the future, the Cardinals are not out of it yet, and they need the 23-year-old to produce right away.