St. Louis Cardinals: Bader and Flaherty to be honored with awards
By Nathan Grime
The St. Louis Cardinals will honor two players who made their major league debuts in 2017 with organizational awards in January.
Outfielder Harrison Bader and pitcher Jack Flaherty will be awarded the St. Louis Cardinals‘ minor league Player of the Year and Pitcher of the Year awards, respectively, on Jan. 14 at the St. Louis Baseball Writers’ Association of America Awards Dinner.
Bader, whom mlb.com ranked the Cardinals’ No. 5 overall prospect in 2017, began the year as a starting outfielder in AAA Memphis, and made an impact in St. Louis after a late summer call-up.
In 92 plate appearances, Bader hit .235 with three home runs and 10 runs batted in for the Cardinals. He flashed five-tool potential with above-average outfield defense and baserunning as well.
Flaherty, ranked No. 3 by mlb.com among Cardinals prospects in 2017, also made his debut down the home stretch last season.
Flaherty made six appearances in a St. Louis uniform in September and October. He went winless in his five starts, compiled a 6.33 earned run average, but struck out 20 in his 21 1/3 innings pitched.
The awards, however, are for each player’s achievements at the minor league level in 2017.
In 123 games at AAA Memphis last season, Bader slashed .283/.347/.469 with 20 home runs, 55 RBI, and 15 stolen bases.
Flaherty began 2017 at AA Springfield, where he went 7-2 with a minuscule 1.42 ERA and 0.92 WHIP in 10 starts. He soon got the call to Memphis, where he again went 7-2 with a 2.74 ERA in 15 starts.
Both Bader and Flaherty earned minor league All-Star honors last summer before getting the call to St. Louis.
Looking ahead to 2018, Bader, 23, and Flaherty, 22, both will compete for big league roster spots during Spring Training.
Bader’s spot on the Cardinals’ opening day roster largely depends on whether or not fellow outfielder Randal Grichuk will still be in St. Louis by the time the calendar turns to April. The Cardinals already have, and are likely to continue to include Grichuk in trade talks this offseason.
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Should the Cardinals move Grichuk, that would open up a spot for Bader to serve as a fourth outfielder on the roster. With the ability to play all three outfield positions and quickness on the basepaths, Bader would keep busy as a reserve outfielder.
Flaherty has an outside chance at a rotation spot as spring draws closer. He ended the season in the Cardinals’ rotation, largely due to health concerns surrounding Adam Wainwright and the team’s bleak playoff outlook.
The Cardinals’ rotation perhaps carries the most uncertainty of any unit entering the new year. Carlos Martinez might be the only sure thing as starting pitchers go. Health has been a recent factor for Wainwright and Michael Wacha, Miles Mikolas hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since 2014, Luke Weaver has thrown fewer than 100 big-league innings in his career, and Alex Reyes will still be recovering from last year’s Tommy-John surgery.
All of those factors could open the door for Flaherty to make an impression during Spring Training that may earn him a big-league uniform on Opening Day.
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Bader and Flaherty are two of the younger and brighter prospects in the Cardinals’ system. If the team hopes to compete next season, it will be relying on young players such as the aforementioned honorees. Look for both Bader and Flaherty to continue their surge to stardom in 2018.