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.
#11: Harrison Bader, OF
Opening Day 2016 Age: 21
2015 Level: Short-season State College, Low A Peoria
Relevant Numbers: 11 HR, 17 SB in 258 PAs, .523 SLG%, .212 ISO
So, what's so great about this guy?
I've mentioned before, a couple times, how the Cardinals seemed to focus on batspeed and power potential in this year's draft, which is at least somewhat of a departure from years past. Paul DeJong, Bryce Denton, and even Nick Plummer seemed at least partially chosen because of their potential to do damage with a bat in their hands somewhere down the road.
Harrison Bader might be the guy with the most potential damage in his bat of that whole group.
That's not to say Bader is the best hitter of the group; both Plummer and DeJong show plate approaches much superior to Bader's aggressive attack, and Denton could have the highest ceiling of all if things break right for the Tennessee native. If you're looking for a slugger, though, Harrison Bader might be your guy.
Drafted out of Florida, Bader was one of the most productive hitters on one of the best teams in the toughest conference in all of college baseball. He posted a .959 OPS and .270 ISO playing in the ultra-competitive SEC, which prepared him well for the lowest rungs of minor league baseball. He came out firing on all cylinders, too, after being drafted, battering New York Penn league pitching badly enough he was moved up to full-season Peoria barely a week and a half into his pro career.
At the plate, Bader brings an aggressive mentality to both the frequency and violence of his swings. He's capable of hitting the ball out of pretty much any part of any park, and actually possesses solid contact skills as well. His plate approach isn't terrible, but he's never going to be a high on-base hitter, due to a willingness to attach anything drivable early in the count. It's not a fatal flaw, by any means, but there is a definite limit to how often he's going to find his way onto the basepaths.
He runs well, slightly above-average, and is better once he gets going. He's smart, as well, choosing spots to try and take an extra base whenever he can. In the field, that speed makes him an average to above- corner outfielder, and might even allow him to play some center. He won't be good in center, necessarily, but could do it in a pinch without killing a club. He has a strong enough arm to play right field.
I find Bader's swing very interesting; he hits with an excess of movement in his legs and feet I would prefer to see him tone down and go to a widespread stance, similar to the one he uses in batting practice. Think Jim Edmonds, only right-handed. Actually, Jim Edmonds isn't a terrible physical comparison for Bader in general; I'm not sure Bader will ever have the kind of easy, natural loft in his swing Edmonds possessed, but he is of a similar build and capable of putting a charge into the ball much like the former Cardinal center fielder.
Harrison Bader is somewhat of an all-or-nothing player; his aggressive approach at the plate could leave him vulnerable to pitchers capable of working away from his strength, potentially nullifying what damage he can do. He's also capable of hitting mistakes -- and some pretty good pitches, as well -- a very, very long way, though. He's not as extreme a player as Randal Grichuk, but isn't cut from completely different cloth, either, particularly the minor league version of Grichuk who struck out around 20% of the time, as opposed to the more recent version with his 30%+ K rate.
At the very least, Bader represents a very intriguing skillset for Cardinal fans to follow; it's one we haven't seen a ton of the past handful of years, as the organisation has seemingly prioritised nearly everything other than power hitting. Harrison Bader offers plenty of that power, and could possible bring it while being an asset in the outfield, as well.
Player Comp: Later-career Reggie Sanders, with his power and defense still mostly intact, but without the patience at the plate he showed early on, isn't a bad idea. The short-lived good version (say, 2003-'05), of Jose Guillen isn't, either, minus the crazy throwing arm. (But hopefully with better health overall.)