St. Louis Cardinals: Fans will NOT see Harrison Bader in 2017
The St. Louis Cardinals have a young outfielder waiting in the wings but is he or isn’t he the next Oscar Taveras?
Oscar Taveras broke the mold for St. Louis Cardinals fans. He was outstanding and brought with him great promise. He is now, thanks to the tragedy of his death, immortalized in Cardinals lore. Some fans are wishing that Harrison Bader could be the second-coming of a Taveras-like outfielder.
I like Bader. I have watched him play; watched him in Memphis in 2016. That said, I don’t see him ready and I don’t see him necessarily like Taveras. Having admitted this, however, I find myself questioning this hypothesis. So, please allow me to explore by comparing Bader to Taveras and then circling back to draw a conclusion.
Let’s start with their basic histories. Bader was drafted by the Cardinals in the third round of the 2015 June Amateur Draft having hailed from the University of Florida. Taveras was signed by the Cardinals as an amateur free agent in 2008 having hailed from the Domincan Republic.
In 2009, at the age of seventeen (yes, 17; can you believe it?!), Taveras appeared in the foreign rookie league in 237 at-bats posting a slash line of .257/.338/.392. In 2015, at the age of twenty-one, Bader appeared in low-A and single-A ball for the Cardinals in 235 at-bats posting a slash line of .311/.368/.523.
To compare apples-to-apples, we must fast-forward a touch to 2011 when Taveras made his first appearance at single-A. In 2011, Taveras (age 19) appeared in 308 at-bats posting a slash of .386/.444/.584. Considering these statistics, we can all agree that Taveras shined and that his promise was glowing. No wonder he has a secure place in lore.
That said, Bader’s single-A numbers are nothing to be disappointed with or about and equally shows promise. Let us jump ahead a touch to AAA ball. Bader split 2016 between AA and AAA. In AAA, Bader (age 22) appeared in 147 at-bats and posted a slash line of .231/.298/.354. Taveras made it to AAA in 2014 at the age of twenty-one. He appeared in 173 at-bats posting a .306/.341/.462 slash line.
It seems that at this point we are seeing Taveras pulling away statistically from Bader. In 2014, before Bader was even drafted, Taveras appeared in 239 at-bats in AAA (.318/.370/.502) before being called up to the bigs where he appeared in 234 at-bats (.239/.278/.312). Taveras’ call-up occurred on May 31, 2014. This limited season would be his only MLB experience as we all know all too well.
Bader hasn’t yet made his MLB debut and many thought that 2017 might be the year for his ascension. This was before the St. Louis Cardinals signed Dexter Fowler this offseason. Many, myself included, feel that Bader is destined to be locked in Memphis in 2017. His numbers aren’t Taveras-like enough to break through the now-locked MLB ceiling.
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Before drawing such strong conclusions, I think we should look at a few additional statistical comparisons between Bader and Taveras. Let’s talk about speed: Bader is noted as being very speedy. In fact, in his career (two seasons) he has swiped thirty bases and been caught nineteen times. In his career, Taveras swiped thirty-eight bases and was caught stealing eighteen times in six seasons. Seems Bader wins the speed battle.
In terms of defense, Fangraphs awarded Taveras a UZR of 0.5 when he appeared in center field, a -4.8 when he appeared in right field, and a -4.3 when he appeared in left field. Bader, having not played in the majors, isn’t yet awarded UZRs from Fangraphs. So let’s look at another fielding stat, range factor per game (RF/G) to make a fair comparsion.
Bader holds the following RF/G numbers: 2.66 CF, 1.74 LF, and 1.47 RF. Taveras held the following RF/G numbers: 2.17 CF, 1.18 LF, and 1,72 RF. Looking at these numbers, it is both easy to see why Taveras was so lauded and easy to see how Bader is thought of in high esteem as well.
Let’s cut to the chase, is Bader the next Taveras? Not quite but he does have incredible promise. Will Bader rise? This is the tough question. Should the St. Louis Cardinals move someone like Tommy Pham in a deal, then Bader is a perfect backup for the outfielders in St. Louis.
What might make the most sense then, since Bader isn’t an exact replica of Taveras, would be for Harrison to spend the 2017 season in Memphis to hone his everyday play and everyday bat and then rise should a deal come at the trade deadline. That, or perhaps Mozeliak sees that Bader has the most value now… he could then find himself climbing another organization’s ladder.
I like Bader. I like him a lot and hope that he can stay with the Cardinals. That said, I think that Pham would need to depart so that Bader could potentially impact like Taveras did. What do you think? Come back in a day or two as I plan to compare Bader to Pham to see who works best in what role. Go Cardinals!