Nick Plummer (Paul Ivice/The Cardinal Nation)

St. Louis’ 2015 first-rounder, outfielder Nick Plummer, is coming back from a lost 2016.

The Cardinal Nation’s top 50 prospect countdown for 2017 continues at #21 with a top outfield prospect dropping in rank due to injury. Details for TCN members.

http://www.scout.com/player/197200-nick-plummer?s=321

2016 rank Pos. DOB Signed Round
8 OF 07 31 96 2015 1st

Selected 2016 stats

Tm AVG BABIP AB R H 2B HR RBI BB SO SB wOBA OBP SLG OPS
DNP                              

Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)

Message board community (23): Nick Plummer gave the community fits last year during the vote. Several posters were having trouble placing him due to his injury. This year, despite him missing all season, there was much less discussion about where Plummer fit. CariocaCardinal voted for him first as his 16th highest rated player before Plummer finished at #23, a drop from 12th last year.

CariocaCardinal said that he actually has Plummer ahead of Edmundo Sosa, Allen Cordoba, Jake Woodford and even Austin Gomber. BobReed said that he liked Plummer on draft day two years ago and his 127 wRC+ at 18 years old in the GCL in 2015. Scadder21 said that Plummer has lost development time, but if the team thought he was a first rounder, maybe he has the stick to advance in the system. – Jeremy Byrd

 

Derek Shore (24): Following a so-so pro debut with the Gulf Coast League Cardinals in 2015, Plummer missed the entirety of the 2016 season, including the majority of extended spring training after two hand surgeries to repair a broken hamate bone.

Plummer, 20, was the Cardinals’ 2015 first round draft selection out of Brother Rice High School in Bloomfield Hills, MI and was slated to open the 2016 season with the Johnson City Cardinals had it not been for the hand operation.

The left-handed hitter wasn't ready health wise to participate in instructional league for the Cardinals despite being invited. Instead, TCN's former #8 prospect's focus was getting necessary reps while continuing to rehab from those surgeries.

"Instructs ran into the rehab part of that for him," Cardinals Director of Player Development Gary LaRocque told MLBPipeline.com in October. "That's a positive. He's back at it but wasn't quite ready for the day-to-day rigors of it. We wanted to make sure he was strong enough. He's doing well and continues to get ready for 2017."

In his draft year, Plummer showed outstanding plate discipline as he proved to recognize pro breaking balls and didn't expand the strike zone despite playing high school baseball where hitting counts start 1-1 in Michigan. Not surprisingly as a cold weather player, pro pitchers tended to blow the bat out of his hands with the most premium gas he had seen in his career.

Considered to have one of the more refined and advanced bats out of the 2015 draft, Plummer has a patient approach armed with a quick swing that has a slight uppercut, but one that didn't stay in the hitting zone long in his draft year. At 5-foot-10, 200 pounds, he is thick and strong and can drive the ball with authority to all parts of the field.

“He is going to be fine - young, strong hitter with athletic ability," a Cardinals official said last winter. "He just needs to get his feet under him in pro ball."

With a bit of a tweener defensive profile, Plummer currently plays center field with slightly above-average speed, but amateur scouts were divided on him as to whether or not he'll stay in center or move to a corner outfield spot. His most likely fallback will be left field due to a below-average arm.

It will be interesting to see not only how much Plummer's hitting ability was affected by the hand surgeries, but especially his power potential, a part of his game which lags behind the rest and could significantly hurt his overall value if he doesn't stick up the middle.

If healthy, Plummer's 2017 assignment is tough to predict because of the lost season and that fact he has yet to experience non-complex league pitching. If fully healthy, I wouldn't be surprised if he opened the year at Low-A Peoria.

 

Brian Walton (17): Once again, I am the outlier among our voters as the only one who placed Plummer ahead of yesterday’s announcee, fellow center fielder Dylan Carlson. If both are healthy, I think Plummer could be a slightly better player, but of course, his health remains the major question. After all, he was a top 10 prospect a year ago, losing prospect-ranking ground due to injury, not ineffectiveness on the field.

Unlike the Cardinals organization, I cannot paint Plummer’s inability to play in instructional league games as a positive. I had really been looking forward to seeing him in action, in a first concrete step on his road back. Instead, he was not visible on the field even during workouts, apparently doing his rehab in non-baseball activities. With his inability to compete since 2015, Plummer badly needs quality at-bats more than anything else.

I see why Derek would think that Plummer could be expected to open 2017 at Class-A Peoria. Had he been healthy last season and received several hundred at-bats in rookie ball, it would make the logical next step. But after the long layoff, will Plummer really be ready for the Midwest League in April? Not long ago, Magneuris Sierra stumbled in that big jump when coming off a Gulf Coast League MVP season, while Plummer not only did not impress as much in the GCL, but is also trying to shake off a lot of rust.

Specifically, when spring comes, Plummer will not have played in game action for over a year and a half - and never against pitching better than that in the GCL. I could see a more conservative approach with him next spring, continuing in extended spring training. If he really hits well, then make the move to full-season ball at Peoria during May or June.

More realistically, if the progress is slower, I think Plummer could go from EST to Johnson City long enough to prove his feet are on the ground, followed by a quick promotion to State College, or even Peoria in July or August, if his results look good.

Here is why I worry about a slower comeback, though. There is a considerable track record of lost power from others coming back from hamate surgery. Rough estimates are that a full season's worth of games need to be played before power numbers begin to stabilize.

If Plummer is typical – though remember that he already had not one, but two procedures - he may have another substandard power performance in 2017. If so, his MLB hopes would be slowed even further. Alternatively, if he performs well this coming season, it would be doubly positive. He certainly has the talent.

TCN Scouting Grade: 6, Risk: Extreme (click here to review scales)

Our 2017 top 50 series continues

To see the entire list of top Cardinals prospects and remaining article schedule, click here. This includes the top 50 countdown and nine in-depth, follow-up articles. Most of them are exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation. Thank you for being a member!

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