The 2015 First-Year Player Draft for the St. Louis Cardinals will likely be defined for several years by their focus on hitters in the early portion of the draft. Well-known for their fondness of and ability to develop pitching, the Cardinals switched things up, spending three of their first four picks and four of their first six on hitters. The focus of the Cardinals seemed to have been on players who exhibited excellent bat speed, which in turn generates high exit velocities.
The choice for The Cardinal Nation’s Rookie Hitter of the Year came down to two college hitters who ended the year as teammates at full-season Class-A Peoria. The outfielder barely nudged out the third baseman in the final tally, just as he did earlier for our Peoria Player of the Year.
Bader had to wait for his chance to sign on the dotted line with the Cardinals as his Florida Gators went deep into the College World Series. Shortly after Bader’s college season ended, he was on his way to State College to join the Spikes. In the New York-Penn League, he spent just seven games helping out the Spikes with a phenomenal slash line of .379/.400/.655 over 30 plate appearances. He hit two home runs and two doubles along with stealing two bases before being called up to the Midwest League. His time there with the Peoria Chiefs is truly what clinched the award for Bader.
Bader helped lead the Chiefs to the Midwest League Western Division Finals with a .301/.364/.505 hitting line over 228 plate appearances in 54 games. He slugged nine home runs, 11 doubles, and a pair of triples. Additionally, he went 4-for-13 with a double and three RBI for the Chiefs in their four playoff games. Defensively, he spent nearly all of his time in center field for Peoria. Overall, Bader racked up a .311/.368/.523 batting line with 11 homers, 13 doubles, two triples, and 17 stolen bases over 258 plate appearances in 61 games.
Runner-Up: Paul DeJong
DeJong took the Cardinals’ system by storm with his debut in Johnson City. The Illinois State product immediately made an impact over his first 45 professional plate appearances hitting .486/.578/.973 with four home runs and six doubles. He moved up to Peoria with Bader and continued to hit well, though not quite as well as Bader, which cost him the award.
DeJong hit .288/.360/.438 with five home runs, 12 doubles, and three triples for the Chiefs in 56 games and 247 plate appearances. He then completely fell off in the playoffs, going just 1-for-16 with nine strikeouts. Still, DeJong made a fantastic debut with a cumulative .316/.394/.516 line with nine homers, 18 doubles, three triples, and 13 stolen bases in 292 plate appearances. His impressive strike zone judgment showed up in his 9.93% walk rate.
Orlando Olivera, GCL/State College: .340/.392/.521, 204 PA, 7 HR, 34 RBI, 13.24% K%, 8.38% BB%
Nick Plummer, GCL: .228/.379/.344, 228 PA, 1 HR, 22 RBI, 8 SB, 24.56% K%, 17.11% BB%
Chris Chinea, Johnson City/State College: .309/.352/.497, 180 PA, 6 HR, 27 RBI, 15.56% K%, 6.67% BB%
Link to master article with all 2015 award winners, team recaps and article schedules for the remainder of this series. Of course, that includes our selections as the organization’s Relief Pitcher, Starting Pitcher and Player of the Year, up next.
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