When the mainstream media talks about an outfield logjam in Los Angeles, many fail to acknowledge that the Dodgers have two ready young talents for the big leagues that are capable of producing significant offense at the outset. Scott Schebler may not be a name to many now, and his overall tools package won’t get him on many top prospect lists, but the two tools he possesses should make him a starting-caliber corner outfielder that out produces toolsy types. Improving every season in the minors, Schebler doesn’t have much left to prove at the minor league level and is ready to step in should any outfielder falter or get hurt in 2015.
Like similarly-statured prospects before him, Schebler can be overlooked because he’s a bit of a tweener athletically. Listed at 6’1, 208 pounds, Schebler has a stocky build and will have to work to maintain his shape and not lose a step in the field. He’s a decent overall athlete, but he’ll be confined to a corner in the majors. Likewise, he will not be much of a threat on the basepaths.
What makes Schebler a top prospect in the Dodgers system is his bat. Schebler has 60 or better grades on both his hit and power tool and has the potential to be a .285 hitter with 20+ home runs at the major league level. Schebler’s swing is geared to hit the ball with authority. He uses a long stride and significant weight transfer to incorporate his lower half into his swing. His swing plane is designed to produce loft on the ball and he has the power to carry mishits out of the park as well.
Schebler’s swing is more noted for the power behind it than the bat speed speed. His swing can get a little long and he at times appears like a buggy whip swing. His hands work well, but he will also roll over pitches on occasion. As a hard swinger, Schebler will always be susceptible to strikeouts, but he’s done well to cut them down as he’s climbed the ladder.
Like the strikeout rate, Schebler’s walk rate also improved last year making the big jump from High-A to Double-A. The jump from Class-A to Double-A is the biggest jump a prospect makes before the jump to the majors, so Schebler dropping his strikeout rate and upping his walk rate is a good indication he’s maturing as a hitter. Similarly, Schebler’s line drive rate jumped between levels, which also suggests Schebler has refined his approach at the plate and knows what pitches he can drive.
As a 26th round pick out of an Iowa Community College, Schebler has been a "prove it" prospect since entering the system. Each level is significant to his development because he doesn’t have impact raw tools for an evaluator to overlook struggles in the name of upside. Because of this, Schebler’s ticket to the major leagues has always been production. In my experience following the Rockies system, the type of prospect that has to and does hit at every level has produced at the major league level better than his tools would indicate.
In a sense, Scott Schebler reminds me of Corey Dickerson coming through the Rockies system. Like Schebler, Dickerson didn’t have the athletic profile to wow the mainstream, but produced and advanced diligently through the Rockies system, continuing to prove doubters wrong. While I don’t feel Schebler matches Dickerson’s upside (I think Dickerson’s hit tool is stronger and he’s a better overall athlete), I think Schebler can become a better pro than many prospects that beat out Schebler on a Top 100 list.
Another comparable player to Schebler is Jason Kubel, which provides something of a cautionary tale for Schebler. While consistently producing positive weighted runs created marks (wRC+, per FanGraphs), Kubel minimized his overall contributions by giving back runs on defense.
I have not had the chance to personally evaluate Schebler’s defense, but I do believe Schebler has the athleticism to be average in left field. Defense will be the biggest difference between Schebler having the potential of a 2-3 WAR left fielder, and one that hovers under 1 because of complications in the field.
Schebler will head to Oklahoma City to start the 2015, but he’s more or less ready now. He just turned 24 and is already physically matured, and he’s capable of producing right now at the big league level at fourth-outfielder quality at a minimum. Schebler is obviously blocked by Carl Crawford and Scott Van Slyke at the big league level, and will probably need injuries to a few outfielders to see time in Los Angeles before September. Because he’s ready to produce immediately, and has middle-of-the-order offensive potential, Schebler’s value as a trade chip is also high. However, cost-controlled offense might be of greater value to Andrew Friedman’s Dodgers, so Schebler may have to stay patient while the front office continues to makeover the roster and payroll through the coming season.