Just two years after being drafted, Harrison Bader bursted on to the scene in 2016. After sustained excellence in AA, Bader earned a promotion. Since that promotion, however, Bader has struggled with the elevated level of competition.
Harrison Bader was a phenomenal college player. Playing in the SEC, Bader led Florida for three years, wowing fans and scouts along the way. Despite such success, though, Bader wasn’t overly hyped following his selection in the 3rd round of the 2014 draft. His performance changed that very quickly.
Upon his arrival in the minor leagues, Bader wasted no time. Specifically, he batted .379 in short season A. Moving forward, he also thrived in high A ball, batting .301 in 206 at-bats. As you would expect after such an impressive 2015 campaign, Bader began 2016 in AA.
Most players experience at least minor hiccups in their transition from A to AA. Not Bader. In fact, he exceeded all expectations, proving that his 9 home runs in 2015 were no joke. In 73 games in Springfield, Bader crushed 13 home runs, revealing himself as an elite prospect poised for future success at the Big League Level.
Through 283 AA at-bats, Bader’s minor league career was all he could have hoped for. In a fairy tale fashion, Bader was tearing through the ranks, turning heads with his dazzling tools. At this point, on July 6th, the Cardinals front office decided to promote Bader to AAA Memphis.
Since that day, Bader’s previously perfect professional trajectory has been tarnished. For the first time, Bader has appeared to be human. Specifically, Bader is hitting .240, hitting for less power compared with his time in Palm Beach. Until about August 1st, Bader actually performed nicely, hovering right around .295. After that day, however, Bader has seriously slumped, as his average has dropped from .286 to .240. Over that span, Bader is a measly 2-23 with 0 home runs.
To the average fan, such a slump would be extremely discouraging. To me, however, such a slump should be welcomed to a certain degree. While I admit that no player or coach should ever completely WELCOME a prolonged slump, I will argue that positives can be extracted from this stretch in Bader’s career.
First of all, such a slump should serve as a reality check in Bader’s young career. At just 22 years of age, Bader need be reminded of the learning-curve that usually comes with a league promotion, as one must elevate their level of play to match the competition. As Bader has suddenly learned, that process of elevation can take a while.
Second, and perhaps more importantly, Bader must learn to weather the storm, working relentlessly to adjust to the higher level of play. At many points in every player’s career, they will encounter lack-luster stretches of performance. More important the the slump, though, is the the rebound. It is imperative that Bader learn to mentally process periods of failure, identify the issue, and break out as a better ball player.
While we never wish failure upon players, Bader’s slump should turn out to be a positive experience. He will be forced to battle with the mental trauma that baseball guarantees, coming out a smarter and more mature player. One of the most impressive Cardinals prospects, Bader should take this experience and get even better.