Cardinals in Bader’s Near Future0
By Chuck Slater
By the time you read this, Bronxville’s Harrison Bader may be playing baseball for the St. Louis Cardinals. Bader, whose brilliant season helped the Memphis Redbirds win the Pacific Coast League Southern Division championship, has already spent a week (July 25-July 31) with the parent Cardinals, replacing an injured outfielder, and in that short time won over St. Louis fans with his speed, hitting and fielding.
The Pacific Coast loop is a triple-A league—one step from the majors—and the 6-foot, 195-pound athlete had lifted his season average toward .300 by hitting .317 in June and .314 in July to prompt his brief call-up. And now, at only 23, he is all but certain to be summoned by the Cardinals when big-league rosters expand on September 1.
He may not play every day as the Cardinals desperately bid for a wild-card playoff spot, but his speed assures he will be a late-inning pinch runner and/or defensive replacement. He is primarily a center fielder, the outfield spot most dependent on speed.
And Bader acquitted himself well in that end-of-July cameo with the Cardinals. He batted .286 in six games (6 for 21) with two doubles and impressed with his quickness. He is considered one of the Cardinals’ top prospects by Baseball America and one of the better ones in all of baseball. One thing he is working on is his strikeout totals; he had 9 with the Cardinals. “I feel like I belong,” he says of the major leagues. “Did I deserve that (first) call-up? Absolutely. I earned it.”
He has been earning his way at every baseball stop. After starring for Horace Mann High School and the University of Florida, Bader was signed by the Cardinals in June 2015 and did well in A ball. In 2016, he was a Class AA Texas League all-star with Springfield then jumped to AAA Memphis, where he hit .298. He also hit over .300 in fall ball, then returned to Memphis for a strong 2017 season.
The Cardinals noticed. “It really comes down to always playing your best,” Harrison Bader says. “They (the Cardinals system) kinda stress that.” And so does Bader. “You’re always thinking about the bigs,” he said. “How? By keeping my head straight.”
The September 1 call-up is pretty much expected. The late-July summons was not. “I was in the middle of waking up (when told of the promotion),” he said. “I got a little cold.”
Let’s hope he gets a little hot in September.