Cardinals pick Bader can't wait to get going
ST. LOUIS -- Having just finished practice with his team, University of Florida outfielder Harrison Bader hurried across the street and into an empty basketball arena, where he pulled out his phone.
Day 2 of the 2015 MLB Draft was about to commence, and Bader, unsure which teams were interested in him, had hopes of being selected in one of the first three rounds on Tuesday.
"I thought it would be really, really cool to be a top five-rounder," Bader said. "I didn't really hype myself up too much, but thought that would be a special accomplishment."
Bader didn't have to wait through Rounds 4-5, as the Cardinals nabbed Bader with their third-round pick (100th overall). He saw his name pop up on MLB.com's Draft Tracker.
"I just kind of jumped up and was screaming at the top of my lungs," Bader said. "It was an incredible feeling. Obviously, you don't want to be thinking about the Draft all year, even though it's lingering. It's just a sense of relief. The Cardinals, how successful they are at developing talent … I've already heard things from guys going through the system right now about how great an organization it is."
Among those to reach out to Bader was Casey Turgeon, a 24th-round pick out of Florida last summer.
Bader plans to join Turgeon in the Cards' system, though he has at least two more -- he hopes more -- collegiate games to play first. The Gators leave for Omaha, Neb., on Thursday in advance of the College World Series, where they will be one of eight featured teams. Bader, a junior listed at 6-foot, 195 pounds, will be the team's starting left fielder as Florida tries to make a run at its first national championship.
Bader enters the CWS hitting .292 on the season, and he ranked second on the team in homers (15), doubles (14) and RBIs (61). In nine Super Regional at-bats last weekend, he drove in four and scored three times.
"I will leave there a better player and better person," said Bader, who went undrafted out of high school. "Obviously the Draft happened and a bunch of people called me, but then I reflected on it myself and the conclusion I came to was how many people impacted me along the way."
Bader opened his collegiate career playing in center before shifting to a corner-outfield spot this season. Cardinals scouting director Chris Correa said the organization believes Bader has the skill set -- most notably above-average speed -- to return to center.
Bader's advanced plate approach and his ability to hit for both average and power make him an intriguing option at that position. His power numbers, in particular, shot up this season.
"My game as it progresses, there might be some homers in there, but at the end of the day, I'm going to drive the ball in the gap," Bader said. "I took that approach of staying through the ball and hitting line drives. Some of those line drives that might have hit the warning track in recent years might have gone out."