The St. Louis Cardinals’ have been marketing their center fielder as a star of their team. Will he be able to back it up on the field in 2019?
Harrison Bader came out of nowhere in a way for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2018. Not regarded highly at all as a prospect moving through the system, Bader wowed the team in Spring Training and never played a game at AAA the entire year.
Skip to the end of the season, and all the sudden Bader had entrenched himself as a very valuable piece of the everyday lineup proving prospect gurus wrong all over. The team has continued entrenching Bader by involving him in promotions and marketing campaigns all winter. I can’t blame them. Bader proved his worth to the team by batting .264 with 12 homers and 37 RBI’s while providing 11 DRS in center field.
Bader being an above average hitter (106 OPS+) and a star defender was an energizing force for the lineup in 2018 and hopefully it continues in 2019. Let’s look at the ZiPS projections for Bader in 2019:
ZiPS thinks that Bader’s 2018 was a fluke which I would love to disagree with. It is interesting to me what would cause ZiPS to think that Bader’s 3.8 WAR will drop by almost half in 2019. The Cardinals better hope it doesn’t. Even though he batted 7th or 8th most of the time last year, Bader’s speed and offense is very important to the team. They need that production from him.
If I had to bet, I would say that Bader is a slightly above average hitter in 2019 and continues to increase his defensive prowess as he likely won’t have much competition for center field this year.
My Prediction: .264/.320/.415, 22 SB, 18 HR, 60 RBI, 14 DRS.
The fact that the Cardinals have made Bader such a big part of their plans does put a bit of pressure on him to perform in 2019. For a player that won’t be a free agent until 2024, I am excited to see how Bader continues to grow in his sophomore season.