Harrison Bader has been a solid player since becoming a starter for the St. Louis Cardinals during the 2018 season. Since then, he has accumulated 6.4 fWAR in 958 plate appearances. Additionally, he has been one of the best defensive outfielders in the league, and has finished with an above average wRC+ in two out of the three seasons. However, he still has some issues hitting the ball consistently, and his good seasons with the bat are usually due to an incredible hot streak at some point during the season.
Despite this, he is still a solid overall player, and his injury certainly does not help the team. However, it will give Justin Williams the chance to make an impression after it was announced that he will break camp with the major league team.
Currently, it appears that Dylan Carlson will be the starter in center field with Tyler O’Neill playing in left and Justin Williams playing in right. This is a big opportunity for Williams, and it will also allow the Cardinals to see what they have in him, since he likely would have received minimal playing time if not for the Bader injury.
There is a chance that Williams’ bat can improve the lineup. The left-handed hitter hit well throughout the minor leagues until he reached Triple-A where he struggled with both the Rays and the Cardinals. However, in 2019, he improved, as he posted a 152 wRC+ in 119 plate appearances at the level. However, with such a small sample size, it is difficult to determine if he actually improved, or if he simply went on a hot streak. Additionally, Williams posted below average overall numbers in Spring Training, but he did have quite a few hard hit balls.
Thus, it is reasonable to think that he results could improve over time if he can keep hitting the ball hard. This would be a huge benefit for the Cardinals as they struggled to get any kind of offensive production from the outfield in 2020.
Adding Justin Williams into the outfield mix to begin the season should offer the Cardinals some clarity, as he will get a chance to show what he can do at the major league level. Both Harrison Bader and Tyler O’Neill need to prove that they can hit, and even though he is the Cardinals’ top prospect, Dylan Carlson still needs to prove that he can have sustained success in the major leagues.
Even though Bader can still have some difficulties at the plate. He is the most proven of the Cardinals’ outfielders right now. So, due to his injury, the Cardinals now get to start three outfielders who all need to make themselves part of the Cardinals’ plans for the future. Thus, even though the Bader injury does not make the team better, it provides opportunity for the team to find clarity in regards to its outfield both this season and in the future. With as many promising young outfielders that the Cardinals have, this can still be a benefit, and it could pay dividends in the future.