ST. LOUIS -- As Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong continues to assert himself as the leading candidate for the Gold Glove Award at his position, center fielder Harrison Bader has rapidly built a case for strong consideration as well.
Though he did not make the Major League club out of Spring Training and didn't become the Cardinals' everyday center fielder until after Tommy Pham was traded July 31, Bader has distinguished himself among the best at his position.
"Any time an award is given, you think about how much difference a player makes," manager Mike Shildt said. "I don't see any guy trotting in here playing any better center field than Harrison Bader."
He passes the eyeball test, sure. But Bader also has the defensive metrics to fortify his candidacy. Consider the following Statcast™ numbers:
• Bader ranks first among all Major League outfielders with seven five-star catches and 17 combined four- and five-star catches. The latter includes all plays with a catch probability of 50 percent or less.
• He is tied with Braves center fielder Ender Inciarte for the most outs above average at 19. OAA measures how many more outs an outfielder saves than his average peer.
• His added catch percentage (the difference between what a player is expected to catch and what he actually does) of plus-8 percent is tied for third among outfielders with at least 25 opportunities.
• He ranks second among all MLB players with a sprint speed of 30.1 feet per second.
• His max-effort throw average of 95.2 mph is tied for eighth-best in MLB.
"It's nice to have these metrics that do highlight these things I've been talking about myself as to why I think I'm a good center fielder," Bader said. "But the best motivator for me is catching a fly ball and seeing the pitcher take his hat off and basically just saying, 'Thank you for giving that effort.' That's what drives me."
Though a standout defensive player now, Bader wasn't always viewed as such. He was the primary center fielder in only one of his three seasons at the University of Florida and wasn't immediately utilized in center after the Cardinals drafted him in 2015.
"I just think it's interesting that we kind of label guys as 'X' or 'Y.' And then we give them an opportunity and learn that maybe they're 'Z,'" Shildt said. "I know that's one thing our organization does a really, really nice job of and our player development does -- looking at skill set and having an image of what a guy can do and then allowing it to get done.
"Harrison came up and was given an opportunity, and to his credit, like other guys, they take advantage of opportunity. It's more than just, 'I'm going to go play hard.' It's, 'I'm going to learn my craft and be the best version of whatever this opportunity presents itself.'"
As for Gold Glove consideration, Bader narrowly met the innings qualifications. A player must have played in the field for at least 698 total innings through the team's 138th game. At the time of that cutoff, Bader had logged 714 1/3.
"In this game where there are so many uncontrollable factors, defense is among the more controllable things because it really is just how often you work at it and how good you want to be at it," Bader said. "With that said, that's why I think a Gold Glove is special. It's one of those things you can go out and get."
• Right-hander Zach Prendergast helped lead Class A Peoria to a 2-1 win over Bowling Green on Thursday that evened their best-of-five Midwest League Championship Series at one game apiece. Prendergast struck out seven while scattering two hits and a walk in 6 2/3 scoreless innings.
• Shildt said he is remaining in close contact with family in North Carolina, as the state feels the impact of Hurricane Florence. He made arrangements for friends in the area to watch over his mother, who resides outside Charlotte.