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Prospect Retrospective: Marco Scutaro

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Marco Scutaro
Marco Scutaro
Al Bello

Marco Scutaro of the San Francisco Giants has his own rainglobe. Willie Mays never had his own rainglobe. Barry Bonds didn't have one. Willie McCovey and Juan Marichal and Bobby Bonds never had one. Mel Ott never had one either. Not even John McGraw had his own rainglobe.

But Marco Scutaro has a rainglobe. He's also had a 12-year-career in the major leagues and made the All-Star team this year at age 37. But there's one thing that Marco Scutaro did not have: a reputation as a top prospect. Indeed, he didn't even reach the majors until he was 26 years old. How'd that happen?

Scutaro was signed by the Cleveland Indians as a free agent out of Venezuela in 1994. He played in the Dominican Summer League in 1995 and hit .393 with 32 stolen bases. This got him bumped up to full-season ball in 1996, where he hit .251/.334/.403 for Columbus in the Sally League, hitting 10 homers. Not bad at age 20 for a guy skipping rookie ball, but he received virtually no press attention as a prospect, being an undersized (5-9) second baseman. I noticed him though, giving him a Grade C+ in my 1997 book and noting that he looked like a prospect to me despite his lack of consensus praise.

The Indians moved him up to Kinston in the High-A Carolina League for '97. He continued to play well, hitting .272/.346/.429 with 10 homers, 23 steals, and solid defense at second base. He got into 21 games when Triple-A Buffalo needed an infielder and held his own, hitting .263/.328/.368. The Indians had a lot of prospects at this point in history and Scutaro didn't get a lot of attention, but I kept him rated as a Grade C+ and someone to watch entering '98.

Scutaro was sent to Double-A Akron for 1998 and had a terrific season, hitting .316/.387/.472 with 11 homers, 33 steals, 47 walks, and 71 strikeouts in 462 at-bats. He continued to shine defensively at second base, but the Indians had so much faith in him that they signed Roberto Alomar as a free agent. Alomar was outstanding in '99 but it left Scutaro without a spot in Cleveland. Still, I liked the prospect's across-the-board skills, gave him an aggressive Grade B, and wrote "someone needs to liberate him from Cleveland."

Buffalo was his destination instead for '99. The result was .273/.362/.385 with 21 steals and a 61/69 BB/K ratio. He continued to play well on defense, but scouting reports (which had gotten better in '98) took a nosedive, with lots of criticism of his arm and lack of power and not much focus on what he could do. I moved him down to a Grade C, but in retrospect I should haven't cut him that much. He was still showing excellent plate discipline, and I'm more cognizant nowadays about the crowd/bandwagon effect.

He went back to Buffalo for 2000 and hit .275/.373/.381 in 124 games, but liberation came when the Indians included him as a throw-in to the Milwaukee Brewers in a trade for Richie Sexson. With two non-wonderful seasons for Buffalo on his track record, I still had him as a Grade C entering '01.

The shift in organization seemed to revive him and he hit .295/.382/.432 with 11 homers and 62 walks in '01 for Triple-A Indianapolis, but there was still no major league job in the offing. He led the International League in fielding percentage while showing good range. I moved him back up to a C+ entering 2002, writing that Scutaro could "hit .260-.270 in the big leagues" while providing some OBP, a touch of power, and a good glove. I concluded that "Scutaro is a better player than many major league second basemen, but for some reason no one ever talks about him."

He moved on to the Mets system in '02 and split he season between Norfolk and the Mets bench in '02 and '03, playing great in Triple-A (.319/.375/.475 in '02, .311/.401/.520 in '03) but being used as just a utility guy in New York and not doing a lot with the bat. He finally got a chance with Oakland in 2004 and he's been in the major leagues ever since.

Funny thing: he ended up spending much of his big league career at shortstop, the position that his arm was supposedly too weak to play when he was in the minors. Offensively, he turned out very much as predicted, hitting .278/.342/.391 in his career.

Scutaro hasn't been a superstar, but his 12-year career has been nothing to sneeze at. His Sim Score list through age 36: Chris Gomez, Rick Burleson, Andy High (from the 1920s), Jim Gantner, Johnny Logan, Don Hoak, Kid Elberfeld (early 20th century guy), Jose Vizcaino, Mike Bordick, and Scott Fletcher.

Among shortstops with approximately the same amount of playing time, Scutaro's career WAR of 19.0 in 5323 plate appearances puts him in company with Burleson (21.9 WAR in 5717 PA) Freddie Patek (20.5 WAR in 6247 PA), Chico Carrasquel (19.3 WAR in 5259 PA) Bud Harrelson (19 WAR in 5516 PA), Craig Counsell (18 in 5488), and Juan Uribe (16.1 in 5480),

No superstars there, but all of those guys held jobs for a long while and were quite valuable. It is hard to believe that Scutaro took so long to get a shot, but it's true.

And now he has a rainglobe too.