Last season, when the Yankees completed the trade for Harrison Bader, I was amongst the portion of the fanbase that thought it was a bad move.
The Yanks dealt Jordan Montgomery to the Cardinals in exchange for Bader, who, at the time, was on the IL dealing with plantar fasciitis. Bader wouldn’t end up playing until September, whilst Monty went on to post a 3.11 ERA, and 3.08 FIP with the Cardinals in the 11 starts he made. However, we saw Bader’s skills put on full display when he turned into Barry Bonds for the Postseason.
Offensively, Bader isn’t going to be the most lethal guy in the lineup, as he sits at a 97 wRC+ for his career. Defensively, that’s a completely different story. He has consistently been one of the best defenders in all of baseball and is considered one of the truly elite center fielders in the game today. Think of the Kevin Kiermaier’s and Byron Buxton’s of the league, and Harrison Bader is right up there with them when taking the field.
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Bader’s defense truly is as good as it gets
In just 109.1 innings in CF this year for the Yanks, he managed to tally both 1 DRS and OAA, but since he made his debut in 2017, he has totaled 38 DRS and an astounding 50 OAA when manning center. To take it one step further, since 2018, he is easily one of the premier CF in baseball, as seen by his defensive statistics in comparison to some of the league’s best:
|Michael A. Taylor (51)||Bader (49)||Buxton (16.9)||Kiermaier (48.9)|
|Kevin Kiermaier (50)||Cain (42)||Bader (15.9)||Bader (45.2)|
|Lorenzo Cain (49)||Kiermaier (40)||Kiermaier (13.0)||Buxton (33.0)|
|Byron Buxton (39)||Buxton (33)||Cain (10.9)||Taylor (31.1)|
|Harrison Bader (37)||Victor Robles (32)||Billy Hamilton (10.5)||Robles (28.7)|
Bader isn’t just a great defender; he is arguably the best. Kevin Kiermaier has been heralded as the best defensive CF to play in the 2010’s and early 2020’s, but over time injuries have affected the soon-to-be 33-year-old’s abilities. Bader on the other had, continues to put in defensive masterpieces season after season. He ranks T5 in every major advanced defensive metric, doesn’t get bad reads or jumps on the baseball, and is exceptional at covering ground like no one else in baseball.
Take UZR/150, for example. UZR tells you how many runs, better or worse, that player has been relative to the average player at his position. UZR/150 is the same stat, but per 150 games played. Bader is essentially 15.9 runs better than the average CF in baseball over the course of a season. His elite ability to cover ground like no one else, paired with a fantastic arm, has made it so he is consistently tops in the league when manning the vast unknown.
It honestly doesn’t matter what defensive stat you choose to use or pull up, amongst qualified CF (for this instance, I used at least 1,000 innings in CF since 2018), Bader is amongst the best of the best. Jose Trevino gets lauded for his defensive work behind home plate, as he should, but think of Bader like the Trevi of center fielders. Yankees fans didn’t get a chance to see the master at work, but Master Bader is certainly ready to showcase his skills in the Bronx this upcoming season.
Thanks to his elite defensive output, he’s almost a guarantee for at least 3.5 fWAR over the course of a full season, as in both ’18 and ’21, when he played at least 130 games and bat around .260, he posted fWAR’s of 4.1 and 3.3, respectively.
His offense has some serious upside to it, and his profile is just what the Yanks need
Bader’s offensive skillset has evolved over the past few years, as he has changed from being a guy that works tons of counts — at the expense of striking out at a high rate — to one that is much more focused on simply putting the barrel to the baseball. Take a look at how his offensive approach has developed since 2018: (2020* shortened season)
|YEAR||GP||BB% & K%||OPS||wRC+||XBH & SB|
|2022||86||4.8% / 19.8%||.650||86||18 / 17|
|2021||103||6.7% / 21.2%||.785||110||38 / 9|
|2020*||50||10.4% / 32.0%||.779||114||13 / 3|
|2019||128||11.3% / 28.8%||.680||82||29 / 11|
|2018||138||7.3% / 29.3%||.756||107||34 / 15|
Though 2022 was a rough season for Bader, that can be attributed to him not being healthy, and dealing with that nagging foot pain that severely impacted his play. For a player who is as explosive as he is and uses as much torque and lower body in his swing, it makes perfect sense that he was clearly hampered by the injury. We all saw just how dangerous Bader can be when he gets hot, and if not for his offensive showing in the postseason, it would’ve been a dreadful red October.
Bader mashed five homers in the short October stint the Yanks spent competing, and against Houston, he and Rizzo were two of the only regular offensive contributors. He tallied six RBI’s, posted a 252 wRC+, and saw Yankees fans fall in love with his play. The mouthguard became iconic, and had the Yankees gone all the way, I guarantee it would’ve ended up in the MLB Hall of Fame to be put on display at Cooperstown. Bader earned the trust of Yankees faithful, and the front office had to have felt validated by his play on the big stage.
Harrison Bader will certainly provide a huge spark for the Yanks’ lineup, assuming he bats either 7th or 9th in the order and being able to act as that second leadoff hitter could bode well for him. He swiped 17 bags last season, despite only playing 86 games, so if he is able to steal say 25 or so this upcoming year with the bigger bags, that would do just fine. He’s as quick as they come, as shown by his 92nd Percentile Sprint Speed. Last year the Yankees were more active than they had been in recent years on the basepaths, and adding Bader into the lineup as an everyday guy will mean they’re going to likely continue trending upward.
Look for Harrison Bader, Darth Bader, the Master Bader; whatever you want to call him, to steal the show on numerous occasions this season. He’s going to be flying in center field, making plays on balls that many didn’t think could be made. On top of that, he’s going to have his moments offensively, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see a potential 20/20 season from him. The Yankees have always worked with players on improving their Launch Angle and Barrel Rate, and Bader should be no different. Get ready for one of the most electrifying players in baseball to suit up in Pinstripes for an entire season.