JUPITER, Fla. -- We already know that Harrison Bader can play the outfield. In two seasons in the Major Leagues, Bader is already earning the reputation as an elite defender. But the glove isn’t the only way this 24-year-old budding star can beat teams.
“You’re talking about an elite defender,” said Cardinals manager Mike Shildt. “So the runs are one way or the other; either you’re saving them, or you’re getting them. Harrison has demonstrated in a lot of different ways to be able to put both in each column. I don’t expect that to change, it’s only going to improve as far as I see that.
“He’s a legitimate five-tool player.”
Bader hasn’t yet reached the same level of success at the plate, but he’s getting there.
“He’s gotten more disciplined, still working on it,” Shildt said of Bader’s batting skills. “He has a more consistent swing. His body of work this spring is 180 degrees, so I couldn’t be more excited about him.”
What’s the difference between this year and last?
“Consistency, understanding, routine, all those things,” Shildt said. “You look at his BP, the guy is hitting missiles everywhere. Not that he wasn’t taking good BPs last year, but there’s just more method to the madness, more refinement, more understanding, more quality of work. It all looks positive.”
It’s not like Bader hasn’t hit in the past. He batted .264 in 138 games last season with the Cardinals and on Thursday displayed yet another tool. He became the first Cardinals player in the past 25 years, according to Elias Sports Bureau, to steal three bases in one Spring Training game.
Bader swiped 15 bags last season and on all three occasions Thursday, stole second easily. And it’s starting to become a trend. Bader added to the difficulty factor on Sunday, stealing third base this time, but still making it look easy. After reaching on an error to lead off the third inning, and getting bunted over by starting pitcher John Gant, Bader, who was 0-for-3 officially, took off for third and swiped that bag on Marlins catcher Bryan Holaday. It was his fifth stolen base of the spring.
“Just my playing style, always to be aggressive and think about the next base," said Bader. “I was just trying to remain present. Preparation allows you to tie your confidence into certain things.
“So by the time you get on first base, you [think about] turning it into a double. That’s something I do. It’s part of my game.”
Working with and learning from famed Cards outfielders Jim Edmonds (guest instructor) and Willie McGee (coach) has made a big difference.
“It’s really important as a baseball player, especially at a young age, to continue to grow in the right direction,” Bader said. “I’m surrounded by a lot of guys that have allowed me to understand counts and when to expect a breaking ball and when they might be throwing a fastball up and away just for effect just to get you leaning.
“Stealing bases, there really is an art to it besides simply being fast. You can be fast and have instincts behind that, then you really are unstoppable. So, I’m always going to be fast, but my instincts are what’s going to kind of grow exponentially. So that’s what I’m focused on.”