There is a great deal of buzz around the future of the St. Louis Cardinals outfield. Two names in particular bubble to the top of all discussions.
All the talk about Magneuris Sierra that has come about this offseason had to do with him being an easy choice to add to the 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule-5 draft. But all the future outfield talk lately has been directed at Harrison Bader. Both of these two pose very promising centerfield options for the St. Louis Cardinals but are really different players.
Sierra is the number six prospect in the organization and only 20 years old. He was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2012. Then he exploded on the scene in the Gulf Coast League in 2014, hitting .386 and stealing thirteen bases in sixteen attempts. Following that season, at the age of 19, he had an unsuccessful stint playing full season class-A ball hitting only .191 before being sent back down.
There was success, however, in full season class-A ball in 2016 for Sierra, as he hit .307 with twenty-nine doubles for the Peoria Chiefs. This season righted the ship and could put him back on the fast track to the major league level.
Bader was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in 2015 and in his first year as a professional hit .311, making it as high as full season class-A ball. He followed that in 2016 by playing in Double-A Springfield where he hit .283 with sixteen home runs and forty-one RBIs. He also got time at the Triple-A level where he struggled, hitting only .231 in 127 at bats.
As the number three prospect in the organization, the 22-year-old Bader will most likely find more success at triple-A in 2017, assuming he finds his way back to that level. In many eyes, Bader looks about ready to get his chance in the majors. If he can prove he is able to consistently hit pitching in triple-A next year, he may get his shot.
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The top two outfield prospects in the organization are being projected as center fielders. That could give the front office the good problem of too much young talent. But the way it looks, Bader projects better as a corner outfielder; especially if the defensive choice is between Sierra and Bader. This is because Sierra is graded higher as a fielder, with his arm, and he has speed to cover more ground.
At the plate, Bader is a more powerful hitter. Sierra has not shown power, though shows potential for it. That being said, the guy with more power has also shown more plate discipline throughout the minors. Bader walked twenty-five times in 318 at bats, which compares to Sierra’s twenty-two walks in 524 at bats.
The biggest advantage that Sierra has over Bader is speed. While the latter is not slow, Sierra is just faster. He stole thirty-one bases last year, which is more than the thirty total steals Bader has as a professional to this point.
While right now, Bader has a clear cut advantage in the question of who is the top outfield prospect, expect Sierra to be in that talk in a serious way soon. Bader had the luxury or maturing his skills at college, where Sierra was signed at the age of 17. He had to adjust his skills as needed in order to succeed at a young age.