The Unheralded Scott Schebler
This week, let’s take a look at a 2016 rookie whose climbed the minor league ladder from a late round draft pick to a starting outfielder on a major league team. While, like many, the player in question has some warts, he also possesses a number of key pluses, including an unusual part of his profile that is not often discussed in fantasy circles.
The 802nd player taken in the 2010 draft, Scott Schebler was an unheralded member of the great 2016 rookie class. A multi-sport athlete in high school, Schebler is blessed with above average power and speed. As many players before him, the former Dodger caught the eye of fantasy owners after a 2013 breakout season in the hitters paradise that is the California League (High-A) by slashing a powerful .296/.360/.581. For good measure, he also chipped in 16 stolen bases and showed a knack for reaching base by any means necessary, as he was plunked 15 times.
This offensive surge continued in 2014 when he hit .280/.356/.556 in 560 Double-A plate appearances while also lowering his strikeout rate nearly 2.5% and upping his BB% by a similar mark. In 2015, Schebler’s walk and K rates remained steady but he suffered a power outage, slugging just .410 with hitting 13 home runs. Nonetheless, he was still able to earn a September call-up that year and was impressive in his debut season, when he popped three dingers and swiped a couple of bases in 36 September at-bats.
That offseason, Schebler was dealt to the Reds where he won a major league roster spot right out of Spring Training as the strong side of a left field platoon. Five weeks later, he was mercifully optioned to AAA after batting .188 and sporting a 4:1 K to BB ratio. His return to AAA brought about his highest minor league wRC+ of 166, along with his 3rd straight MiLB season with a K rate of less than 20%. His triumphant return to the majors came on August 2nd and Schebler caught fire on his way to a 2nd half wRC+ of 118, a slash line of .290/.357/.461, and K rate of 18.3%.
The main criticism of Schebler has been his performance against southpaws, and Cincinnati clearly shares those concerns as they deployed him in a platoon at times last season. This weakness of Schebler may not be as serious as many think, though, as evidenced by his minor league numbers against lefties.
2011 R 86 at-bats .326/.362/.512
2012 A 114 at-bats .247/.315/.342
2013 HiA 123 at-bats .301/.368/.569
2014 AA 103 at-bats .282/.353/.544
2015 AAA 154 at-bats .244/.285/.346
2016 AAA 104 at-bats .298/.394/.452
Schebler did, at times, struggle against left handed pitchers, but those instances came after level jumps (in 2012 and 2015). Aside from that, he performed very well against southpaws, including his second go-round in AAA last year. If his performance in the minors is to be believed, Schebler may just need some time to adjust to the big leagues before settling in as a full-time, platoon-free outfielder.
Shifting now to on base ability, Schebler complied a career OBP of .342 during his minor league tenure. In 322 MLB plate appearances, he has a .329 OBP thus far. One surprising area that helps Scotty get on base so frequently is his ability to lean into one and sacrifice his body. In 2016, he was drilled by a total of 15 pitches, with six of those coming in the majors. If all of those had been MLB HBPs, he would have tied for 2nd in the league with Jose Abreu…but in 150 fewer PAs. Starting with 2011, his year by year HBPs are 5, 10, 15, 23, 13, and this season’s 15. The HBP frequency could lead to added health risk, but thus far Schebler has only made one DL trip as a pro. That came in July 2015 and was unrelated to any HBP (hammy strain). I am still not sure if getting hit with pitches is a desirable skill to have, but getting on base is getting on base, and it makes for another feather in Scotty’s under-appreciated cap.
Although Schebler’s atrocious April and subsequent demotion suppressed his overall line, he still had a very solid 101 wRC+ (48 in the 1st half, 118 in the 2nd), along with a .265 batting average, 9 HRs, and 40 RBIs. Fantasy owners can expect more power from Schebler next season (especially considering the fact that The Great American Ballpark is made for lefty power), along with solid on-base skills and, if we’re lucky, some steals. While there’s risk in the profile given his lack of track record, the 26-year-old will receive every chance to succeed in a Reds outfield that is lacking in sure-fire starters and is well worth a flier for next season.