TCN 2016 Cardinals Prospect #8: Nick Plummer

St. Louis’ 2015 first-rounder adapted from Michigan prep ball to the professional game in the Gulf Coast League.

The Cardinal Nation/ Player Profile

School: Brother Rice High School, Bloomfield, Michigan

2015 rank Pos. DOB Ht. Wt. Bat Thw Signed Round
NA OF 07,31,96 5-11 200 L L 2015 1st

Selected 2015 stats

GCL 0.228 0.320 180 43 41 8 1 22 39 56 8 0.363 0.379 0.344 0.723

Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)

Message board community (12): Nick Plummer landed at #12 on the community vote, a bit lower than the #8 that The Cardinal Nation has him at here. The 2015 first round draftee had a lot of comments during the vote weighing his pros and cons.

For instance, nbr1hawkeye posted that Plummer reminds him of Kolten Wong, given their similar builds, left-handedness, and quick bat. Louschuler didn’t really see it that way though, given nearly all of Plummer’s production came from a 17% BB rate in the GCL, which, according to him, doesn’t correlate well with success at higher levels.

Blingboy compared Plummer to another 2015 high school outfielder draftee, fifth pick Kyle Tucker, who Plummer out-produced in his limited stint in professional baseball this year. BobReed said that Plummer may not turn out to be Kirby Puckett, but names like Higginson, Greenwell, and Lankford aren’t bad at all. - Jeremy Byrd

Derek Shore (9): The Cardinals scouting department went against the standard approach in this past year's draft. Instead of selecting an advanced-polished college pitcher, the organization wielded its first number one pick on a prep outfielder since Colby Rasmus in 2005, with the selection of Nick Plummer. Plummer was also the Cardinals first high school position player first first-round pick since Pete Kozma in 2007.

Plummer, 19, was considered one of the more advanced high school hitters available. The outfielder impressed scouts with his bat speed and plate discipline. However, some believe Plummer's stock fell because of his tweener defensive profile.

Upon signing, Plummer was assigned to Cardinals Gulf Coast League affiliate to open his professional career. Coming from a cold weather state in Michigan, Plummer had a slow transition and finished with an underwhelming .228/.379/.344 line in 51 games, but did show traction with .271 average in the season's final month.

“I think that Nick started to make adjustments towards the end of the year," said Cardinals hitting coordinator Derrick May, who says Plummer’s skill-set reminds him of Charlie Tilson. May believes that Plummer just needs to adapt to the everyday grind of professional baseball. "Nick came in with a fairly patient eye at the plate, and I look for that to continue. Nick is a solid all-around player. He should be fun to what as he matures."

Standing at 5-foot-10 and hitting from the left-side, Plummer has a long frame that can stand to put on additional weight. The early scouting reports on Plummer suggest his knowledge of the strike zone surpassed GCL umpires as a partial explanation for his high strikeout totals. One Cardinals official said he showed good strike zone discipline, which is a tool that takes years for hitters of that age to gain, but said it was more about getting his feet under him at pro ball.

“He's going to be fine - young, strong hitter with athletic ability," said the official. "He just needs to get his feet under him in pro ball."

Early scouting reports on Plummer suggest there should be no issue remaining in center field with an adequate arm and speed as one of his better present tools. The scouting reports note little over-the-fence power, with much of it coming from the gaps and via his speed. It sees Plummer having a lead-off style profile with an everyday ceiling hanging on his bat and his ability to get on base proficiently.

It will be interesting to watch how Plummer progresses after his draft year and a full off-season preparing as a professional. 2016 will be more telling of Plummer's skill-set, and I envision his placement will be the Gulf Coast League for the second time. If not, with his advanced approach Johnson City or State College shouldn't entirely be out of the equation.

Brian Walton (7): It may be a bit unfair to the player, but for me at least, Plummer will forever be the flag-carrier for the one-draft tenure of since-fired Chris Correa as Cardinals amateur scouting director. My sources tell me that Correa (who studied for his doctorate at the University of Michigan) wanted Plummer badly and got his man at #23 overall.

There were definitely some risks taken with the selection. The Michigan native was the first high schooler chosen with St. Louis’ initial pick since Shelby Miller in 2009 and as noted above, their first prep position player at the spot since Kozma in 2007. Further, Plummer is the team's first cold weather-climate initial pick, high school or college, in a decade - since Adam Ottavino in 2006.

On one hand, the number eight overall placement on this top 40 prospect list may seem aggressive considering Plummer’s brief and uneven professional introduction, but it isn’t really. I went back and looked at where the Cardinals first picks in the last 10 drafts ranked in our top prospect list the year after they were drafted.

Of the 10 picks, seven were college players - four pitchers and three hitters. All of them were ranked between second and sixth that following winter. The other two high school draftees were Miller, placed second in 2010, and Kozma, way down at #16 in his first year eligible. Plummer roughly splits the difference between the other two prep first-rounders.

Among outfielders in this year’s top 40, Plummer’s placement behind Charlie Tilson and ahead of Magneuris Sierra jibes with my personal vote. Of course, considerable space near the top was cleared with the top three position player graduates from last year’s top prospect list all being outfielders – Randal Grichuk, Stephen Piscotty and Tommy Pham.

Since I have little first-hand insight to offer regarding Plummer on the field, I checked with several others about him. One scout whose opinion I value likes Plummer for his strong hands, bat speed as well as his defense, calling him a "pure hitter."

This fall, I also queried May, a respected player development leader, about his specific assessment of progress made by the outfielder this past summer.

“Nick is a young hitter - just came out of high school,” May said. “What impressed us the most was probably his eye. You look at his strikeouts, but he had really good strike zone discipline. And then he got a little more aggressive and his average went up. He was kind of feeling his way and he is going to do fine.”

With Plummer being so young (he turned 19 partway through the season – on July 31) and the GCL season so short, there isn’t a lot of track record to go on. But to look for the change May noted, let’s split Plummer’s 51 game introduction into two roughly equal parts – June/July and August.

Jun/Jul 18 28 119 95 20.2 27.7 0.73 0.189 23 6
Aug 19 23 100 85 15.0 23.0 0.65 0.271 20 16

As you can see, in his “second half,” that more aggressive approach resulted in fewer strikeouts and fewer walks alike, though the ratio remained close. Plummer raised his batting average over 80 points and tripled his RBI production, so there was clear progress.

My expectation is that Plummer will join Johnson City of the Appalachian League at the conclusion of extended spring training in 2016. That will give him additional time to adapt to the professional game and once short-season play begins, it will also give us a greater body of work to evaluate.

Update: The details behind where the St. Louis Cardinals’ most recent 10 initial draft picks ranked as prospects in their first year of eligibility have been posted for members of The Cardinal Nation.

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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