Cincinnati Reds rookie outfielder Scott Schebler is off to a hot start in 2016: in his first three games he is 4-for-9 with three doubles and a walk, generating three RBI, along with three strikeouts. What should we expect from him over the length of the season?
From the 2016 Baseball Prospect Book:
Scott Schebler, OF, Cincinnati Reds
Bats: L Throws: R HT: 6-1 WT: 208 DOB: October 6, 1990
2012: Grade C; 2013: Grade C; 2014: Grade C+; 2015: Grade B-
The Reds got Scott Schebler from the Dodgers as part of the big Todd Frazier trade. He was surplus in Los Angeles but I think he is a good guy for a rebuilding team like the Reds to take a chance with. He is an older prospect at age 25 but unlike many players in that cohort he has a good set of athletic tools, with above-average power and running speed. He’s a skilled and aggressive runner and his power showed during the brief major league trial with the Dodgers. So did his propensity to strike out: he can hack excessively and is not likely to hit for high averages against major league pitching. Still, if he can hit .250 (which is plausible), there should be enough power, speed, and adequate defense to provide some value, at least as a fourth outfielder and platoon bat. Grade C+.
Schebler saw extensive playing time in spring training, ranking third on the club with 59 at-bats and taking advantage of that exposure with a .288/.354/.525 line, with five doubles, three homers, six walks, 14 strikeouts, and a pair of steals. In 19 games with the Dodgers last fall he hit .250/.325/.500; all told, through 40 major league at-bats he is hitting .289/.360/.556 with three homers, two steals, four walks, and 16 strikeouts.
Put another way, what he did during 2016 spring training is identical to what he's done in real major league games.There's clearly nothing left for him to learn in the minors and the Reds just need to let him play, which they are doing.
Schebler's tenure in the Dodgers farm system was marked by an exciting power/speed combination along with a high strikeout rate and some contact issues. He hit just .241/.322/.410 last year in Triple-A, a disappointing slash line though he did contribute 13 homers and 15 steals.
What he's done in the majors so far is actually more than you'd expect given his Triple-A performance. The sabermetric projection systems, which incorporate his minor league data, are not very optimistic about him. Steamer projects .232/.290/.404; ZiPS projects a virtually identical .229/.292/.402. PECOTA from Baseball Prospectus is a little more optimistic at .236/.302/.440, but that's still no great shakes.
So on the one hand we have Schebler's early big league numbers and his almost identical spring training numbers, which all told make him as a .288/.357/.535 hitter. But the minor league stats aren't as good, and the objective projection systems which incorporate those stats make him out as a .230ish hitter with an OBP around .300 and a SLG somewhat over .400.
Is Schebler doomed to slump? My guess is yes, but not to the extent that the formulas say.
I don't think he is really a .288/.357/.535 hitter over a 600 at-bat season, but I also think the projection systems are too pessimistic. Looking at all the numbers, but adding in my personal observations of Schebler over the years and his scouting reports of broad tools and some ability to adjust at the plate, my guess is that his true level of ability over the long haul is on the order of .260/.340/.450. Add in double-digit steals and the ability to handle all three outfield positions and you have a fine player.
That's my take. Your mileage may vary.