Yesterday we examined Detroit Tigers outfield prospect and 2015 draftee Christin Stewart. Today we turn our attention to another member of the '15 NCAA MLB draft class who experienced quick pro success: outfielder Harrison Bader of the St. Louis Cardinals system.
After solid freshman (.312/.371/.376 with 15 steals) and sophomore (.335/.411/.431 with 13 steals) seasons for the University of Florida, outfielder Harrison Bader took a large step forward in the spring of 2015 with a very fast start. Although he cooled as the spring progressed, he finished with a .297/.393/.566 line with 17 homers for the Gators. On the negative side his stolen base total dropped to eight, but he still showed plus running speed and outfield range. Adding power to the mix boosted his draft stock and at one point he was generating first-round buzz.
He ended up falling to the third round, drafted by the Cardinals. This could end up being a big bargain if his pro debut is any indication. Originally sent to State College in the New York-Penn League, he was promoted to Peoria in the Midwest League after just seven games. He hit well at both levels, batting a composite .311/.368/.523 with 11 homers and 17 steals in 235 at-bats.
Listed at 6-0, 195, Bader is a right-handed hitter and thrower born June 3, 1994. His physical tools are all solid or better. He's always had raw power but got to it more frequently this year thanks to tweaks that added some loft to his swing. He's aggressive about using his plus speed on the bases and Midwest League observers were particularly impressed with his range and instincts in center field.
Although his strikeout rate is not particularly high, Bader is an aggressive hitter and didn't draw a large number of walks in his first look at pro pitching, posting a 15/49 BB/K ratio. He seems to read spin well and makes solid contact, so despite the lowish walk totals strike zone judgment doesn't seem like a big problem, at least not in A-ball. We'll have to see how he manages when he faces more advanced competition in the upper minors.
Bader offers an intriguing mixture of athletic tools and developed baseball skills, projecting as a player who contributes with power, speed, and defense. Assuming he keeps the strike zone locked down as he moves up, he should be a bargain in the third round. Fantasy owners interested in a power/speed package should keep track of him.