Hazelbaker is a 28-year-old rookie, who parlayed a .304/.373/.543 (.334 EqA) spring performance into a spot on the Opening Day roster (thanks also in part to a late injury to Ruben Tejada). He’s a corner outfielder, despite some fairly impressive speed. He was a fourth-round pick from Ball State in 2009, to the Red Sox, got traded to the Dodgers in the 13/14 offseason. They released him last May, and the Cardinals picked him up.
In the Red Sox system, he steadily worked his way up to AAA Pawtucket, generally hitting for a .250ish EQA; he showed slightly above average power (+5 POW component), good speed (+10), poor strike zone control (-14 K, 0 W). As a Dodger, he was awful – a .184 EqA in Albuquerque, then sent down to hit .213 in AA Chattanooga, and opened 2015 by hitting .222 in AA Tulsa…hence the release.
As a Cardinal, though, a whole new life. His combined DT for Springfield and Memphis last year comes to .282/.350/.497, .294 EqA, and the spring works out to a .320-ish EqA. The most significant change from his past is cutting his strikeouts down (from 24% of PA and a -14 K component in 10-13 to 20% and -7 in 15-16), while raising his BABIP component from -1 to +9.
It is possible that some latent skills have been unlocked through skillful coaching, and that the Cards have found lightning in a bottle. Its hard to imagine him breaking through against a pretty set outfield. If the Cards decide to let go of Brandon Moss – a move which would set off dominoes that push Holliday to first, Grichuk to left, and Pham to center with some regularity – then he is well positioned to hold down a 4th OF slot for the season.