School: Ravenwood High School, Brentwood, TN
Selected 2015 stats
Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)
Message board community (28): Bryce Denton checked in at #28 during the community vote. This was quite a bit lower than The Cardinal Nation, as a whole, had him here at #21. Blingboy probably made the most persuasive pessimistic argument during the discussion, reflecting the lower spot in the community vote. Blingboy stated that he thought Denton was drafted for his bat, but he ended up not being able to hit .200 in the Gulf Coast League this year.
Scadder21 had a more upbeat post, saying that he doesn’t worry about newly drafted guys struggling in the first year. He also stated that Denton was drafted more for his bat speed, not his bat, which could be affected by his adjustment to professional life. GM4aday said that his only hope regarding Denton is that he can stay at third base. Wileycard reminded the group that Denton played most of the season as a 17-year-old, so he trusts the potential that the scouts saw in him will come out with maturity next season. - Jeremy Byrd
Derek Shore (16): The Cardinals shed $1.2 million to pry Denton away from a baseball scholarship to play in-state at perennial powerhouse Vanderbilt. Denton opted to take the money and turn professional, and the Cardinals assigned him to the Gulf Coast League to start his quest to reach the majors one day.
Denton, 18, one of the youngest players in the 2015 draft class, hit under the Mendoza line in his not-so-smooth acclimation to professional baseball. Denton belted a home run and produced 14 RBI in 44 games. He also fanned 32 times, but should be overlooked because the Cardinals player development staff typically do not make alterations with newly-drafted players in their first seasons to see how they make adjustments on their own.
Drafted for his immense raw power potential and electric bat speed that can profile anywhere, Denton enhances that ability with incredible strength as he has no issues turning on a pitch or hitting the ball out to any part of the field. His swing is said to get elongated at times, and that gives him issues with plate coverage with pitches on the other half that leads to swing and miss. A common theme for high schoolers in their draft year is issues identifying quality breaking balls for the first time. However, Denton does have a good approach and can make hard contact.
On the defensive side, Denton played third in high school and was drafted as a third baseman, but at the hot corner, there are said to be some rough edges to his game at this point, including a lack of quickness due to his athleticism. A move to left field may be down the road, but he is young and has the necessary arm strength to stay at third for now and improvements in footwork and how to judge ground balls come with additional reps and experience.
“Bryce came in at 17 years old with good raw power and had to learn the speed of the game,” said hitting coordinator Derrick May. “He has a great attitude, competes and is just such a positive kid who shows good power potential down the line.”
When looking at the complete package, Denton checks off a lot of boxes on the offensive side. There is a lot that needs to be worked on, and obviously, there is no expectation of him being a fast-mover, so he will surely be given the time to develop his craft. With that, I expect to see Denton repeat the GCL next summer.
Brian Walton (22): Once again, I split the difference between the rankings of our other two voters. Putting Denton in the system’s top 20 with so many open questions seemed too aggressive to me.
But rather than dwell on the exact number - which is debatable for any prospect, especially one who recently turned 18 with just 155 career at-bats - I considered the relative placement of the system’s third basemen.
Last year, there was really Patrick Wisdom and no one else. The Cardinals had already moved his fellow high-ranking 2012 draftees off the position – Stephen Piscotty to the outfield and Carson Kelly behind the plate.
The organization clearly made the position a priority in the 2015 Draft by taking two third basemen in their first six picks – Denton in the second round and Paul DeJong in the fourth.
At this point of the countdown, we have already discussed Wisdom (#24) with the more polished college player in DeJong still ahead. By placing Denton in the middle of the two, the ranking shows some optimism about such a young player’s future, while still acknowledging he is not yet where he needs to be.
To be completely honest, at this early stage, the ranking also takes into account his signing bonus. $1.2 million was the Cardinals’ third-highest bonus this year, which you would expect for their third player taken. However, it is worth noting that it was the second-highest deal over slot ($264,600) value they gave in 2015. In other words, the Cards were willing to ante up to get their man.
While there is no doubt that Denton’s introduction at the plate was not great, do not overlook his BABIP above. .236 is amazingly, unluckily low. It is almost certain in 2016 that considerably more of those hard-hit balls are going to find holes, rather than fielders’ gloves.
In my case, by the Cardinals excusing their 2015 draftees from instructional league camp, I have yet to see Denton play. This fall, I asked May his impression of the third baseman at the plate.
“For 17 – he came in at 17 – he is a strong kid,” May said. “You wouldn’t expect that if you saw him that he is a 17-year-old kid. You see flashes of him driving the ball, hitting the ball. He’s got good bat speed. You hope that he can put it together.”
By this time next year, after another shot at short-season ball, Denton’s future ceiling will become clearer to all of us – coaches, writers and fans alike.
Our 2016 top 40 series continues: To see the entire list of top Cardinals prospects and remaining article schedule, click here. This includes the top 40 countdown and nine in-depth, follow-up articles. Most of the latter are exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation.
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