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Prospect on the Rise: Paul DeJong, 3B, St. Louis Cardinals

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The St. Louis Cardinals are well-known for their ability to find sleeper-type prospects, particularly players from the college ranks who out-perform their natural tools. Recent examples include Allen Craig and Matt Carpenter. The next one on the list may be third baseman Paul DeJong.

DeJong had excellent 2014 (.349/.430/.596) and 2015 (.333/.427/.605) seasons for Illinois State University. He also had a good track record hitting with wooden bats, batting .277/.379/.558 with 20 homers, 27 walks, and 48 strikeouts in 267 at-bats for the Wisconsin Woodchucks in the 2014 Northwoods League.

The bat drew praise from scouts so this wasn't just a numbers game, however there was uncertainty about his defense. He showed a strong arm but questions about his range and ultimate glove projection added a tinge of doubt and put a limit on his draft stock. Some saw him as a future catcher; others a third baseman or corner outfielder; he played second base in college but didn't seem like he'd have the mobility to stay there in pro ball. This was very much the Carpenter/Craig profile when they were in college.

The Cardinals drafted him in the fourth round this year and made him a full-time third baseman. The arm works there and his range and hands seem OK though of course he'll need experience and polish.

The bat looks impressive so far; he started off in the Appalachian League but was too good for that circuit (.486/.578/.973 in 10 games). Promoted to the Low-A Midwest League, he hit .288/.360/.438 for a 133 wRC+, very credible for a player jumping from the Missouri Valley Conference to full-season ball. Scouting reports remain promising on the bat and his quick transition augers well for the future. He even stole 13 bases in 17 attempts despite average speed, testifying to good instincts.

It remains to be seen if DeJong can accomplish what Craig and Carpenter did, but the similarities are obvious. He should continue hitting enough to buy time for the glove to sort itself out.