TCN 2016 Cardinals Prospect #16: Paul DeJong

The former Illinois State third baseman has gotten off to a strong start in his professional career.

The Cardinal Nation/ Player Profile

School: Illinois State University

2015 rank Pos. DOB Ht. Wt. Bat Thw Signed Round
NA 3B 08,02,93 6-1 195 R R 2015 4th

Selected 2015 stats

Peo 0.288 0.335 219 32 63 12 5 26 23 43 13 0.371 0.360 0.438 0.799
SC 0.486 0.583 37 10 18 6 4 15 6 9 0 0.660 0.578 0.973 1.551
total 0.316   256 42 81 18 9 41 29 52 13   0.394 0.516 0.909

Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)

Message board community (16): Paul DeJong checked in at #16 during the community vote. This was exactly where The Cardinal Nation as a whole had him overall, indicating that his early professional results were very positive.

Desmetlax12 said that DeJong would be a top 30 player at worst for him. Whcardsfan posted that it was nice to see a college player in the infield who was able to carry a good bat even after a long season at Illinois State. Pugsleyaddams chimed in saying that if this was a silent auction with DeJong up on the block, you’d have prospective buyers scratching their heads and noses, coughing, and clearing their throats, all in a quest to signal their desire to purchase.

BobReed said that DeJong looks like he has a solid stick, is a good baserunner, and athletic enough to improve defensively as well - if he is able to concentrate on mastering the hot corner. He also liked that there were reports of a positive work ethic. Bccran posted that he saw DeJong play at Peoria this season. He said that his third base defense was just as impressive as his bat, indicating that he may move quickly through the system. - Jeremy Byrd

Derek Shore (19): DeJong is one of several draft picks to instill raw power into a system severely lacking power before the 2015 draft. DeJong earned first-team All-MWC (Missouri Valley Conference) honors while playing four different positions for Illinois State University as a super-utility, everyday player.

Cardinals Midwest area scout Tom Lipari made this assessment of DeJong.

“Paul fits the mold of what the Cardinals scouting department looks for in amateur prospects,” said Lipari, who added he is an intelligent player with a strong mental approach. “His makeup on and off the field is off the charts and everything he does, he handles in a professional manner. Paul is a cool customer. Tremendous young man. He's got that even-keel approach to the game. Very level... Special player.

“From a physical standpoint, it didn't take long to see that the ball comes off his barrel a little differently than most. The sound is different... He's got the bat speed all scouts look for with great extension through the ball. He's got power to all fields. Tremendous strength in hands, wrists and forearms. You're going to have a hard time getting a fastball by him.”

Unsurprisingly, as DeJong set foot in the professional ranks, he continued to perform and showed no ill effects translating his offense from amateur ball. Not known as a burner, DeJong’s speed played due to lack of quality backstops in the lower levels, but he showed good instincts as he stole 13 bases in 17 attempts this past season. Lipari said he has “sneaky speed” and “baseball instincts” which will carry him well.

So far in his professional career, scouts with whom I have spoken are positive on his bat with a feel for the barrel and a controlled approach at the plate. Defensively, the Cardinals are trying him as a third baseman with the capability of playing a multitude of positions, including the demanding catching position. Though it appears the Cardinals are holding out faith in his bat to augment his value.

"DeJong was someone you warm up to with lots of hard contact," said a pro scout who covers the Midwest League. "He's got more pop in batting practice than in games from what I saw, but I feel he'll be fine there. The defense was also fine."

Lipari saw him as an adequate defender at 2B, 3B, C and RF. He sees some hidden arm strength and notes DeJong does a great job of reading the ball of the bat while his intelligence helps him as a solid defender.

DeJong's initial placement for 2016 will be interesting; I think he could handle being fast tracked with an opening assignment to High-A Palm Beach and Double-A Springfield at some point.

“Like any player new to pro baseball, Paul will have to learn to adapt and adjust to the different challenges that come along with it. He is certainly off to a good start," Lipari concluded.

Brian Walton (19): A commenter on The Cardinal Nation forums noted yesterday that it appears the “surprises” in this year’s top 40 countdown are now behind us. It was noted that 16 spots remain (including DeJong) with 16 players from the community vote yet to be announced.

That is in fact the case, but there is enough difference of opinion in the actual rankings to make for some interesting commentary still ahead. However, there are few arguments about DeJong.

DeJong is one prospect for whom there is general agreement, with all three voters seeing him as a top 20 player in the system. St. Louis used two of its first six picks through round four of the 2015 Draft on polished collegiate hitters, with fourth-rounder DeJong having joined outfielder Harrison Bader (third round).

DeJong and Bader share the distinction of being the 2015 draftees who reached the highest level in the system in their first season, Class-A Peoria. After just ten games during which he literally destroyed Appalachian League pitching, DeJong was moved up to a more appropriate level of competition in the Midwest League.

That confidence carried with him from Tennessee back to Illinois, as noted by Cardinals minor league hitting coordinator Derrick May.

“The first time I met him, you could just see the confidence in which he carries himself,” May said. “He just has a very simple approach. He has great straight away power and stays on the ball.

“I can remember watching him. In one game, he hit a hanging curveball. He said he was not really looking for it. He was just reacting to it. I just thought that was great. He is more advanced - and you like to see that,” May said.

A number of other recent Cardinals prospects who were third basemen initially ended up at other positions defensively. They include Allen Craig and Stephen Piscotty to the outfield (and first base) and Carson Kelly to behind the plate. It seems clear to me that if DeJong can stick at third base, however, he can move up the ranks as fast as his skills can take him.

One who stayed at the position was another under-the-radar collegiate player in Matt Carpenter. In his first summer as a professional, Carpenter also played a handful of games in short-season ball before moving to the Midwest League, where his OPS in 29 games was .795. That is almost identical to DeJong’s .799 mark in the same league in 2015.

A difference, however, is that the Cardinals moved Carpenter up to Palm Beach for the final month of his first season (where he struggled). Carpenter returned to the level to open his next year and quickly earned a Double-A promotion.

I am not saying DeJong is going to be another Matt Carpenter, but at this early stage in his career, I am not saying he can’t, either. Based on his good start in 2015, we have already placed DeJong as our top third base prospect in the system, ahead of young second-rounder Bryce Denton and veteran Patrick Wisdom. That seems just right for now - until we see more in 2016.

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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