Scott Schebler’s impressive play might add to the outfield logjam

A prospect’s journey through the minor leagues has many twists and turns. Unless a prospect is a no doubt, can’t-miss guy like a Corey Seager, there’s always going to be questions surrounding him. Scott Schebler is doing all he can to answer the questions about him and his prospectness.

Schebler, 23, is coming off a fantastic 2013 season in which he hit .296/.360/.581 with 27 home runs, 29 doubles, 13 triples, a 140 wRC+ and was named the Dodgers’ Minor League Player of the Year. However, he played in a hitter-friendly environment and wasn’t that young for the league. But in 2014, he’s performing even better in a more neutral league: .282/.365/.557, 24 home runs, 20 doubles, 12 triples and a 155 wRC+.

When the Dodgers’ drafted Schebler in 2010, it wasn’t a sure thing that he’d sign. He was a community college draftee and got popped in the 26th-round. But the Dodgers and Schebler agreed to a $300,000 bonus on deadline day.

Schebler specializes in extra base hits. In his first full season (which really wasn’t since he played at Ogden), he had 38 extra base hits in 70 games. The next season at Great Lakes, despite struggling, he had 46 in 137 games. At Rancho, he had 69 in 125 games. This season in Chattanooga, he has 56 in 116 games, including a Southern League-leading 24 home runs. He hit three of those home runs on Tuesday, including an inside-the-park home run.

The athletic outfielder is a good power-speed combination prospect. He isn’t Joc Pederson in that department, but he’s not as far off as some would expect. At best in the majors, he’s a 20/20-type guy, but he’s probably more of a 15-18 home run/10-15 stolen base player. However, he has some improvements to make if he wants to reach that ceiling.

Schebler doesn’t draw a lot of walks. He entered this season with a 5.3 percent walk rate in 1,477 minor-league plate appearances. This season, he’s walking at a career-best 7.9 percent rate. If he could walk that “frequently” in the majors, he could be an everyday player. But with the power and the limited number of walks come strikeouts. Entering 2014, he had struck out in 23.1 percent of his plate appearances. That isn’t terrible, but with a lower-than-preferred walk rate, it stands out a little more. This season, he has improved by striking out 19.5 percent of the time.

These improvements, no matter how minor they may seem, are encouraging. I saw Schebler a number of times in person last year and came away somewhat impressed. He has a quick left-handed swing that generates a lot of power from his 6’1, 208-pound frame, thanks to incredibly strong wrists and forearms. But his swing can get long at times and he can get beat on good inside pitches. Despite that, he’s posting pretty good platoon splits (.933 OPS vs. RHP, .873 OPS vs. LHP) after posting nearly identical splits in 2013 (.943/.937).

This is from my #notascout scouting report of him from July 27, 2013.

“With the big power comes swing-and-miss. He struck out six times in four games (17 plate appearances). His strikeout rate has climbed to 27.6 percent this season, up from 17.7 last season. Seeing as he doesn’t have plus-plus power, he’ll have to work on going forward if he wants to succeed at even the upper levels of the minor leagues. He’s increased his walk rate three years in a row, but will need it to keep improving as climbs the ladder. He needs to exercise more patience at the the plate and just take what the pitchers give him.”

This is the fourth consecutive season he has improved his walk rate, for what it’s worth.

Defensively, Schebler has dabbled in center field. He’s athletic enough to handle it, but he doesn’t have great range out there. If he were a legit center fielder, he’d be a Top 5 prospect in the system. He could play it in a pinch, but it definitely isn’t preferred. Instead, he’ll be relegated to a corner. His arm would be fringy in right field, so it looks like he’s a left fielder. Having said that, if Andre Ethier can be classified a right fielder with his fringy arm, then maybe Schebler has a chance out there.

Schebler ranked 13th on both of my 2014 prospect lists. He’s making a strong case to crack the Top 10 after this season. Double-A is the proving ground of the minor leagues, and Schebler is establishing himself as a legitimate prospect. He won’t headline any trade package for a first-division player or pitcher, but he’d be a nice chip to be included in a deal. He’d look awfully good in Marlin teal, or whatever their primary color is.

If he isn’t traded, he’ll go to Albuquerque where he’d have a good chance of hitting 30-plus home runs.

About Dustin Nosler

Dustin Nosler began writing about the Dodgers in July 2009 at his blog, Feelin' Kinda Blue. He co-hosted a weekly podcast with Jared Massey called Dugout Blues. He was a contributor/editor at The Hardball Times and True Blue LA. He graduated from California State University, Sacramento, with his bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in digital media. While at CSUS, he worked for the student-run newspaper The State Hornet for three years, culminating with a 1-year term as editor-in-chief. He resides in Stockton, Calif.