This season was easily the most important of Harrison Bader’s career. Despite being an elite defensive center fielder, his future with the St. Louis Cardinals would have been in jeopardy had he not shown significant improvement at the plate.
So far, so good. He is hitting .283/.361/.528 with four home runs and nine RBI in 16 games since coming off the injured list. His four homers tie the amount that he had in 50 games last season and paints a promising picture for Bader after entering the season with so much uncertainty.
This does not secure his fate in St. Louis. Hardly at all. He will need to show that this is real and not an anomaly since he has only produced at this level for a little over two weeks. But it is hard not to feel good about how he looks at the plate and should have the Cardinals feeling good about their bet on Bader, Dylan Carlson and Tyler O’Neill in the outfield.
“If Bader and O’Neill can hit at a league average level and have some pop every now and then,” Katie Woo of The Athletic said on 101 ESPN St. Louis, “then that’s a really lethal offense.”
It’s exactly what the Cardinals hoped for and what has come true so far this season. O’Neill looks like a potential 30-plus homer caliber player. Bader looks better offensively than he ever has. Paired with Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt, two of the games most prolific hitters, along with Carlson, Yadier Molina and Tommy Edman, the Cardinals have the makings of a very strong lineup.
But this level of production from Bader brings them to a whole new level. If he keeps this pace up, and continues to hit above .280 while playing elite defense, the Cardinals’ chances of dethroning the San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League will become even stronger.