2013 hasn't been an easy year for the Milwaukee Brewers, but one bright spot is the performance of rookie second baseman Scooter Gennett. Since being promoted to the majors in June, Gennett is hitting .325/.359/.495 in 210 plate appearances, with 11 doubles and six homers. Among major league rookies with significant playing time, his wRC+ ranks second at 136, exceeded only by Los Angeles Dodgers phenom Yasiel Puig.
Scooter Gennett? He got some attention as a prospect pre-season, but I don't think anyone expected this. Let's take a look.
Gennett was drafted by the Brewers in the 16th round in 2009, from high school in Sarasota, Florida. He was considered a fifth-round talent but a Florida State scholarship hurt his draft stock. The Brewers were able to sign him for $260,000, which immediately looked like a bargain after he hit a strong .309/.354/.463 in his 2010 professional debut, with a 126 wRC+ in the difficult Midwest League. He drew comparisons to Chase Utley and Todd Walker for his strong left-side hitting, but needed to polish his defense after making 21 errors.
Moved up to Brevard County in the Florida State League for 2011, he continued hitting well with a .300/.334/.406, not showing as much power in the big FSL parks but maintaining his batting average. He followed up by hitting .411 in 22 games in the Arizona Fall League. Rough defense was still an issue, but it was hard to knock the hitting.
Promoted to Double-A Huntsville for 2012, Gennett hit .293/.330/.385. He hit just five homers and there was some disappointment about his home run power, but he did hit 30 doubles. He improved his footwork at second base and showed better range, although he still led the league in errors for the third season in a row.
Sent to Triple-A Nashville for '13, Gennett hit .280/.327/.371 in 321 at-bats, playing regularly in April and May, up to the majors for a brief trial in June, back to the minors in early July, then back to Milwaukee on July 28th. As noted earlier, he's been excellent in the Show thus far.
Gennett is a 5-10, 180 pound left-handed hitter, born May 1, 1990. He's grown two inches and gained 20 pounds since entering pro ball (he was originally listed at 5-8, 160 when he signed) and has usually shown good pop for his size. His swing is tailored for the line drive and he is generally an all-field hitter, but he'll show pull power on occasion.
He is an aggressive hitter and while he doesn't draw many walks, he makes contact and keeps his strikeout rates down. The downside to his approach is that his OBP is very dependent on his batting average. If he's in a slump and the hits aren't falling, his OBP suffers because there are few walks to buffer it.
His running speed is average but he could steal 10-12 bases a year. On defense, his tools fit best at second base. He has gradually improved his footwork, helping his range, and this year he dramatically improved his reliability, cutting down sharply on his errors. He will never be a Gold Glove, but he can be at least decent.
Gennett was extremely hot for the Brewers in August, hitting .423/.452/.654, obviously an unsustainable pace. His September numbers are .286/.315/.414, which is much more in line with his minor league record. My thinking is that Gennett will stabilize as a .280/.320/.400 type hitter, which isn't spectacular, but with continued defensive progress he should have a long career.