photo: Max Schrock (Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports Images)
By The Cardinal Nation staff
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Link to Schrock’s player page at The Cardinal Nation, with additional biography and history information.
Selected 2017 stats
TCN Scouting Grade: 5.5, Risk: Medium (click here to review scales)
Brian Walton’s preamble: Normally our message board community leads off our prospect commentary, Derek Shore follows and I hit third. However, today, I am moving to the top – opening with a necessary explanation – and will conclude with my Max Schrock commentary in the cleanup spot.
While The Cardinal Nation has been the first to roll out our in-depth St. Louis Cardinals prospect rankings each fall since 2005, starting in November has its risks. As we saw this past week, a number of players were on the move, both in and out of the organization. Fortunately, it is still early enough to adjust.
To say the least, it has been a busy week for the Cardinals. In the biggest of a series of moves, three members of this top 50 prospect countdown yet to be announced were traded away – Sandy Alcantara, Magneuris Sierra and Zac Gallen. All would have ranked in the lower half of our top dozen Cardinals prospects for 2018. The fourth Cardinal to move to Miami in the Marcell Ozuna trade, Daniel Castano, was a top 50 honorable mention.
We have determined that neither of the outfielders St. Louis added in Thursday’s Rule 5 Draft – high-A player Angel Moreno and Dominican Summer Leaguer Jean Selmo – are ready for top 50 prospect list consideration at this time.
In return for Stephen Piscotty, the Cardinals received two middle infielders from Oakland, both of whom are definitely top 20-worthy. With Schrock and Yairo Muñoz being brand-new to the system, our very immediate challenge was to determine where to slot them – as well as how to shuffle others in the rankings.
After conducting independent research on the two, Derek Shore and I decided to place Schrock and Muñoz fairly conservatively until we get to see more of them in action in 2018. For these two prospects only, you will see our individual rankings listed as the same as the prospect’s overall rank. The Ozuna trade also opened up several spots in the top 10, enabling multiple prospects to move closer to the top of our rankings.
However, a quick check of the math should tell you that with three top prospects leaving the rankings and just two joining, there will be a gap. Unless there is a trade this coming week in which additional prospects are coming into the system, our current plan is to leave spot #11 open for 2018.
During the 2018 regular season, The Cardinal Nation will again offer for members our monthly top 50 prospect rankings along with explanations of the changes made and why. If not sooner, #11 will be filled in April.
Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)
Message board community (NR): The community voting was completed before Schrock joined the Cardinals organization.
Derek Shore (15): One of two infield hitting prospects acquired from the Oakland A’s for Stephen Piscotty, Schrock has the typical profile of what the Athletics have always looked for in their hitters – a high-average (high contact), high on-base type offensive prospect.
Since he was just traded to the Cardinals this week, here is some background on Schrock. The 23-year old was originally the 13th round draft pick by the Washington Nationals in the 2015 First-Year Player Draft out of the University of South Carolina. Schrock was traded to the Athletics in 2016 in exchange for former Cardinals pitcher Marc Rzepczynski. He has batted .324 over his career with a .372 on-base percentage, 18 home runs and 131 RBI over 281 minor league games.
The left-handed hitter was not only a 2017 mid-season and post-season Texas League All-Star at Double-A Midland, but he was a difficult out. Schrock ranked fourth in the TL with a .321 batting average while ranking third in on-base percentage (.379) and registered the league’s highest number of plate appearances per strikeout with a 10.80 mark. Defensively, he led all second basemen in games (101), total chances (436), put outs (173), assists (257) and double plays (83).
Simply put, Schrock was one of the main reasons why the Rockhounds won their fourth consecutive title in the Lone Star League.
“Max was one of our most consistent players throughout the year,” Midland manager Fran Riordan told the media. “He just hit from the time he got to Spring Training until the season ended. His hit tool obviously stands out, but what was just as impressive to me was the way he played second base, working before games to make himself a plus defender, and he showed out in the plays he was able to make and the balls he was able to get to. He really became a strong defender.”
From a scouting perspective, Schrock is an offensive-first player through and through, which is likely what drew the Cardinals to him in the first place. He immediately becomes the organization’s top second base prospect after Eliezer Alvarez was dealt to Philadelphia in September.
While there is nothing that jumps out about him as a prospect, he features an innate ability to work counts and pitchers and get on base. Schrock simply hits. Everyone is sold on his bat. With a simple swing that generates consistent contact, his offense plays up with his excellent feel of the strike zone.
He doesn’t have a lot of power (modest) and extra-base hits aren’t exactly his game, either. Some observers question how much impact he has in his profile, but a 128 wRC+ shows Schrock has at least some.
Oakland’s Director of Player Development Keith Lieppman lauded Schrock’s approach.
“Schrock’s approach is very good,” Lieppman told Oakland Clubhouse. “He takes pitches if he needs to, but he’s ready to ambush right away. He doesn’t have any fear at the plate. I think he’s done a really good job of developing an approach that fits his style. He’s got a bunch of doubles and puts up quality at-bats.”
In terms of what he doesn’t do well, Schrock isn’t that fast, His stolen base total fell from 22 in 2016 to four last season, as the Texas League featured better catchers who shut down his average speed on the base paths. Although he is a strong defender at second with decent range and dependable hands, but his lack of arm strength precludes him to playing on the left side of the infield, other than in a pinch.
While he has a solid all-around game, Schrock’s carrying tool (hit) will have to do most of the heavy lifting for him to be a productive big league player and exceed expectations.
Cardinals President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak not only likes Schrock’s offensive profile, but praises his defensive versatility as well.
“Schrock is someone that has that very excellent offensive profile for us,” Mozeliak said to the media. “Everywhere he’s been, he’s hit. He too gives you a lot of defensive flexibility. You can move him around. When you are looking at all the different things we are trying to do, it’s nice to be able to find a couple of players we can stick right into Class Double-A or Class Triple-A and know they are going to be productive.”
Schrock is likely earmarked for Triple-A Memphis next season.
Brian Walton (15): OK, now I get to talk about today’s subject. The more I learned about both A’s prospects acquired, the more I like this deal. What is important to understand up front is that in the trade, both teams culled players from the other side’s positional surpluses.
With Ozuna’s arrival, the Cardinals no longer had a starting role for Piscotty and the organization has multiple young outfielders at both the Triple-A and Double-A levels pushing for opportunity.
So it was for Oakland and its middle infield situation. The A’s are considered a top five farm system in MLB and from that august group, two of their top four prospects are middle infielders in Franklin Barreto and Jorge Mateo. The pair, also on most national top 100 lists, are closing in on the majors, just as are the new Cardinals duo.
In addition, not including the traded pair or Barreto or Mateo, Oakland has five other shortstops in its top 30, according to MLB Pipeline, including their #12 and #14 prospects. Further, the A’s are set with their major league starters up the middle in Jed Lowrie and Marcus Semien.
In the pre-trade comparison between the two organizations, the A’s had a whopping total of nine middle infielders in their top 30, while the Cardinals had just three – Edmundo Sosa, Tommy Edman and Kramer Robertson, with the latter two ranked in the third ten.
So, just as the loss of Magneuris Sierra was not severely felt in terms of Cardinals outfield depth, the A’s could afford to let two very good middle infield prospects go in Muñoz and Schrock – and the Cardinals filled a need in the process.
As noted above, Schrock’s carrying tool is his hit tool, making him a potentially valuable addition. The downside is that he has not been used at other positions defensively for the last several years. That would hinder his chance with St. Louis, since he would have to take Kolten Wong’s job, rather than focusing on an easier target, assuming Greg Garcia’s role as utility infielder.
If the Cards are not comfortable with Schrock on the left side of the infield due to his arm, perhaps he could be tried in the outfield. As St. Louis learned with Skip Schumaker, a viable roster may be constructed with a second baseman-outfielder on it.
Derek already dug deeply into Schrock’s numbers, but I wanted to make a few additional points. As a professional, Schrock has always been a .300 hitter. His Double-A results are especially notable, as Midland is known as a tough park for left-handed hitters. On the way to that Texas League title, Schrock hit .350 in the post-season.
In fact, my friend Melissa Lockard of Oakland Clubhouse believes Schrock is capable of one day winning a batting title. (If you are a TCN member, do not miss Melissa’s in-depth assessment of Schrock and Muñoz.)
Yet, you may have also noticed Schrock’s .344 BABIP above and wondered if luck was involved in his 2017 results. The answer is “no”. Schrock has such good bat control that his BABIP is always high. For example, in 2016, his BABIP was .361 in the high-A Sally League, another level at which he was an all-star, as well as the game’s MVP.
Schrock’s weighted Runs Created Plus, wRC+, has been strong at his every stop as a professional, always in the range from 128 to 142, where 100 is the league and park-adjusted average. In fact, most of his stats have been very comparable year to year to year. Consistent excellence is hard to beat.
Another way to look at it is that Schrock’s Texas League wRC+ in 2017 was higher than that registered by all three top prospects in Springfield’s outfield – Adolis Garcia (124), Randy Arozarena (115) and Oscar Mercado (114).
All things considered, I gave Schrock an initial Scouting Grade of “5.5 Medium,” reflecting a ceiling of somewhere between an above-average and an average starter but with more to show to get there. We should learn through his play at Triple-A this coming season if my first assessment is accurate.
No matter what, Schrock playing under Memphis manager Stubby Clapp – who was also a 5-foot-8, blue-collar second baseman in his playing days – should be fun to watch.
Our 2018 top 50 series continues
To see the entire list of top Cardinals prospects and remaining article schedule, click here. This includes the top 50 countdown and 10 in-depth, follow-up articles. Most of them are exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation. If you are not a member, join today so you do not miss out!
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