Once upon a time the Cardinals drafted but were unable to sign a physically imposing outfielder with unlimited power potential who had become an internet phenomenon thanks mainly to his signability issues. In 2010 it was Austin Wilson, who passed on the Cardinals' best offer in favor of going to Stanford and majoring in something other than Sports Management.â†µ
In 2007 it was Kyle Russell, a six-foot-five Texas Longhorn whose long swing and even longer list of zeroes on the end of his proposed contract consigned him to the unsignable pile after a long flirtation. His gambit was less successful than it could have been, and he didn't even have academic integrity to thank for it—he spent an uncomfortable season struggling in college and was taken just one round earlier in 2008, when the Dodgers signed him as their third round pick.
Since then he's had an exceedingly odd minor league career. Always a little old for his league, he's put up a .900 OPS in all three years in pro ball but has done it while striking out at almost impossible rates. In his most recent stop, AA Chattanooga, he's hitting .238/.307/.450, which isn't very impressive until you consider that he's struck out 81 times in 226 plate appearances—36 percent of them. 40 percent of his official at-bats have ended with a strikeouts, 14 percent of them with an extra base hit.â†µ
In his career he's hit .447 and slugged .876 when he's made contact. Russell Branyan just blushed. Rob Deer thought he heard somebody say his name, but when he turned around nobody was there.â†µ
He's not just a home run hitter, either—this year he has 29 doubles, 6 triples, 23 home runs, and 10 stolen bases. It's impossible to tell how he'll hold up, just because there are so few players like him; needless to say, however, missing out has not ruined the Cardinals' minor league system.â†µ
Austin WIlson is a much better prospect than Russell ever was, but it's worth remembering that even six-five superprospects who can hit baseballs that need to be video-reviewed by radio telescopes occasionally fail to earn back the bonus we so want to throw at them. As much as I'd like to remind him that Stanford's in session now and the minor league season is almost over, and that something to that effect could probably have been worked out with the Cardinals, and that three million dollars will buy a lot of textbooks—I must resist.â†µ