The Washington Nationals, in their desperation to rebuild their bullpen, traded one of their better hitting prospects to the Oakland Athletics for the left-handed reliever known most commonly as Scrabble. Marc Rzepczynski will slide into the Nationals bullpen, likely as a LOOGY, but could be called upon for more work.
The need for a deep bullpen in today’s world of baseball is seemingly imperative. Rzepczynski has been hot of late, having not allowed a run in nine August appearances, though his season stats have been somewhat worrisome. The 30 year old lefty has a 3.00 ERA out of the bullpen — which can fluctuate with a solid inning tomorrow — but with a 6.0 walks per nine and 9.5 hits per nine rate in 36 innings, there is certainly room for concern. While has has always been able to strikeout about a batter per inning (8.6 on his career), he hasn’t posted a WHIP below 1.40 in four seasons. He has been able to strand a lot of runners behind a solid ground ball rate, with his 70.5 percent ranking him second behind Zach Britton this season.
So Rzepczynski comes to the Nationals with some traits that are beneficial to the team, primarily that he isn’t hurt and is seemingly more fresh than some of Dusty Baker’s other options. He has fared much better against lefties (.222/.295/.302) than righties (.274/.374/.432) over the course of his career, so he will bring some veteran know how to the back of the pen. But it certainly came at a cost.
Max Schrock isn’t a Top 100 prospect, but there is certainly a lot to like about his left-handed bat. The now 21-year old has done nothing but hit since being drafted in the 13th round of last season’s MLB Draft, and he should continue to do so in Oakland.
Schrock — who played his collegiate ball in South Carolina — had a terrific debut last season in the New York-Penn League, slashing .308/.355/.448 with two home runs over 172 at bats. His OPS (.803), keen eye and advanced plate discipline (16 strikeouts to 13 walks) helped jump Schrock from 13th rounder to Top 20 Nationals prospect.
He, Victor Robles and Kelvin Guitierrez got off to a scorching hot start at the top of the lineup for the Hagerstown Suns this season in the Sally. Since then, Schrock has been promoted to High-A Potomac and has done even better against the advanced pitching of the Carolina League. Between both levels Schrock is slashing .333/.378/.456, finding some power with nine home runs while belting 31 doubles over 502 at bats. He hasn’t drawn a ton of walks (31), but he also barely strikes out, going down just 42 times this season, just eight percent of the time.
There is a lot to like about a top of the order hitter with a career .372 on base percentage and such advanced plate discipline. He's not elite in the speed department, but he does make good reads going 22-for-27 this season, which is also advantageous atop a lineup. He plays second base well, and has played the best thus far at his highest level. He is the type of player that could one day see time in the outfield. He isn’t blazing fast, although you may think that standing at 5-foot-8 and 180 pounds that he could fly, but he has sound instincts and could make the seamless transition to a corner position, however it is likely he sticks at second base.
The As have done well for themselves this season in moving forward, especially in the pitching department when they grabbed Jharel Cotton, Frankie Montas and Grant Holmes in the Josh Reddick/ Rich Hill blockbuster. They have now added an exciting piece for the future. Schrock may never pan out to be the next Jose Altuve at second, but he has a nice bat and a lot of potential.
The As seemed to like Jed Lowrie enough to bring him back a few times, and Schrock could very well become that type of player one day. He seems to have honed in on his power this season, and his quick bat could see him become a low double-digit home run guy who can hit a lot of doubles in the gaps. He may not become a full time starter at one position, but has the upside to get everyday playing time shuffling around the infield, or possibly some outfield.
The As are relatively deep in infield prospects, so there doesn’t seem to be any reason to rush Schrock to the big leagues. That patience could help him develop into a player capable of holding down a 25-man roster spot for the future.