The Situation: With Dexter Fowler off to the disabled list thanks to a sprained wrist, the Cardinals turned to Bader to help fill the void and try to stay within striking distance of the playoffs as the stretch run approaches.
Background: A third-round pick of the Cardinals in 2015 following a standout college career at Florida, Bader has blown through the minor leagues in short order. After raking in the Low-A Midwest League during his professional debut in 2015, Bader was pushed aggressively to Double-A in 2016 where he continued to perform at a high level; improving his prospect stock and forcing scouts to take notice. Bader has continued to rip the cover off the ball this year in Triple-A, slashing an impressive .297/.354/.517 in 97 games before his call-up.
Scouting Report: Bader is a well-rounded player that can contribute to a club in a variety of ways. His bat has progressed further than most scouts expected when he entered the professional game, giving him a legitimate chance to be a solid big-league regular. Despite an aggressive swing that has been dubbed violent by some scouts, Bader shows enough feel for the barrel and a solid knowledge of the strike zone, giving him a chance to sustain the high averages he has posted throughout his minor league career.
When Bader makes contact, it is typically hard contact with frequent enough elevation to demonstrate power potential. Most of his over-the-fence power remains to his pull side and with the sequencing ability and high-quality stuff at the big league level, most of Bader’s power is likely to manifest to the gaps. At his peak, Bader could have fringe-average power that generates plenty of doubles and double-digit home runs.
An above-average runner with solid instincts, Bader has the ability to hold things down defensively in center field. His up the middle defensive profile works with his offensive potential and gives him a chance to be an everyday player at the big-league level. Bader’s arm plays well in center field with demonstrated carry and accuracy, allowing him to help control runners attempting to take extra bases.
In total, Bader owns a wealth of solid tools that combine to elevate his overall profile beyond what any individual tool might suggest. As an above-average hitter with gap power and an up the middle defensive profile, Bader should be a consistent contributor in St. Louis over the long haul.
Immediate Big-League Future: Bader is going to be thrown into the fire with Fowler on the DL, and his immediate future will be dictated by how he handles the transition to the big leagues. Assuming he is able to navigate the adjustment to advanced arms at the game’s highest level, he could force the Cardinals into a tough decision when Fowler (or Stephen Piscotty) returns. If the Cardinals fade from playoff contention while Fowler heals, they could opt to keep Bader in the big leagues regardless of performance, giving him exposure and preparing him for a larger role in 2018. —Mark Anderson
Fantasy Impact: The 23-year-old outfielder feasted on Pacific Coast League pitching this season, hitting .297/.354/.517 with 38 extra-base hits (19 home runs) and nine steals in 381 plate appearances, quickly establishing himself as a prominent fixture in Greg Wellemeyer’s Stash List columns. In a fantasy landscape bereft of stolen bases, Bader’s blend of power, potentially double-digit steals, and a well-rounded skill set otherwise, makes him an intriguing option in deeper mixed leagues right out of the gate. The omnipresent contact issues are the lone bugaboo in an otherwise sparkling profile. Bader struck out nearly a quarter of the time in the upper minors over the last two seasons. That’s not terrible, but it’s also not something to completely gloss over. If he’s hitting for power and stealing bases, his owners won’t care how much he strikes out, but it’s something to keep an eye on.
It remains to be seen how the playing time will ultimately shake out when (if) Stephen Piscotty (starting a rehab assignment already) and Dexter Fowler return from injury. The unexpected Tommy Pham metamorphosis, and Randal Grichuk re-establishing himself as a viable big-league option certainly complicate things. If he wasn’t stashed already, Bader is a must-own in NL-only formats and is even worthy of a speculative addition in deep mixers. —George Bissell
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