As I get ready to publish my midseason Dodgers prospect rankings on my blog, I’ve noticed Scott Schebler has been playing a lot better for the Great Lakes Loons than he was to begin the season.
The toolsy outfielder, coming off a decent showing with the Ogden Raptors in 2011, started 2012 off on shaky ground: .221/.250/.400. He was better in May — .277/.325/.438 — but got a lot better in June, hitting .330/.370/.489 for the month.
He has the ability to play center field, but with James Baldwin occupying that spot, he hasn’t played there at all this season — or last season when the two shared the Ogden outfield with Joc Pederson. He’ll likely end up in a corner.
Schebler, 21, has good size (6’1″, 208 pounds) and good tools, but there is one thing holding him back from jumping to the next tier of Dodger prospects — his walk rate.
Last season, he walked 13 times. No, not 13 percent of the time; 13 times in 315 plate appearances (4.1 percent). This season, that number is down to 3.6 percent, which obviously is a red flag. Unless he hits .350 all the time, he’s not going to fare well against more advanced pitching (even, say, California League pitching). To make that jump from fringe prospect to potential fourth outfielder to potential every day player, he needs to learn some plate discipline.
Schebler’s definitely not an empty singles hitter, as his isolated power was .244 last year in the Pioneer League (whose wasn’t, really?) and is at .159 this year in the Midwest League. If Schebler can learn to take a walk, he could be a surprise position prospect coming up through a Dodgers system currently devoid of them.
It’s possible that’s just not the kind of hitter Schebler is, though. This article from Hugh Berneuter of MLive.com has a lot of interesting insight into Schebler’s hitting routine.
“Mentally, I was not ready,” Schebler said. “This was my first season on a full-season team. I wasn’t ready to start that early, to go through the everyday grind. I thought I was ready, but I wasn’t. I’ve learned.”
Schebler’s miserable April was his first experience with extended failure. He did not handle it well.
“I was trying everything,” Schebler said. “I never had the same routine two days in a row.”
Finally, Schebler and Great Lakes Loons hitting coach Razor Shines worked out a daily routine that became, well, routine.
“I do a lot more pregame work now, doing the same things every day with a routine that Razor put together for me,” Schebler said. “A big thing is maintaining a good swing plane.
“Nobody is going to do well trying to hit homers in this league. Our goal is to hit everything hard for 100 feet. If the ball goes out … great. But you can’t try to do it. I’m more of a gap-to-gap hitter, always looking for extra-base hits.”
It hasn’t been all bad, though. Schebler has dramatically and encouragingly decreased his strikeout rate — from 30.8 percent in Ogden last season to 17.5 percent in Midland this season. That, coupled with his propensity for extra base hits (34 this season), is reason to be hopeful.
First thing’s first though, I suppose. The next step in Schebler’s development — for himself and for the organization — would be to focus on improving his plate discipline. It’s not something that can be completely taught, but any effort could potentially help him both now and later.
I could see Schebler getting a late-season call-up to the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, but if he doesn’t, he’ll definitely begin next season there as a 22-year-old.