For as much major league talent Cincinnati has shipped out over the last eight months, there hasn’t been as much uncertainty about the 2016 roster as one might assume. By and large, the starting infield is set and a couple failed attempts at trading Jay Bruce mean he’ll flank Billy Hamilton in right field for the near future.

However, that still leaves left field as a bit of a mystery once again, something which has been true for the last several seasons. As it currently looks, the Reds are ready to employ a platoon at the seventh position with right-handed hitter Adam Duvall complimenting the lefty who should get the lion’s share of starts, Scott Schebler.

Schebler, of course, joined the Reds in the winter’s Todd Frazier trade. Much of the focus was initially on Jose Peraza and the lack of Frankie Montas in the package coming back to the Reds, but the early vibe surrounding Schebler was decently optimistic. Most agreed he has MLB-caliber talent, though his positional options and ceiling are limited. Comparisons to Seth Smith, Brandon Moss, and the like have been tossed around plentifully.

While none of that screams “long-term fixture in the starting lineup” Schebler has a little more to offer than meets the eye. He’s a bit of a tweener—his physique (6’1” with a weight listed anywhere between 208 and 220 pounds) makes his slugging potential obvious but shrouds his slightly above-average speed. He’s been a well-rounded athlete dating back to his high school days and he used that raw ability to get noticed by the Dodgers while plying his trade at a junior college in Des Moines. Los Angeles took Schebler in the 26th round of the 2010 draft but signed him for sixth-round money, speaking to the potential they saw in him.

In the years since then, Schebler made steady progress through the Dodgers’ farm system and ascended a level per year from 2011 on. His minor league numbers back up the general scouting report on him: He’s got loads of power—particularly evidenced by the 58 home runs he hit over three levels between 2013 and 2014—but little propensity to take a base on balls. That being said, he’s progressively improved both his walk and strikeout rates over recent seasons and posted career bests (8.2% walk rate, 19.2% strikeout rate) last season at Triple-A.

On top of a solid power tool and an ability to make contact that’s somewhere just south of average, Schebler’s speed plays. He’s averaged about 14 stolen bases per year in the minors from 2012 to 2015 and legged out more than his fair share of triples over that time as well (including 14 in one season at Double-A). His speed might not affect games as much at the MLB level (especially in the cramped confines of Great American Ballpark, where it’s tough to stretch a double into a triple) but it certainly doesn’t hurt his stock.

His major liabilities are his arm and, to a lesser extent, his glove. That combination all but assures he will be a left fielder for the majority of his career, but the combination of his speed and the small outfield in his new home ballpark does open up the possibility of center field while he’s on the right side of 30 years old. It’s not an ideal situation (especially if he’s flanked by Jay Bruce and the comparatively lead-footed Adam Duvall) but it could work in a pinch if the first two options—Billy Hamilton and Jake Cave—are mightily underperforming or injured.

Doug Gray wrote up a great month-by-month breakdown of Schebler’s 2015 over at his site. In a word, it was streaky but he was rewarded in September with a major league call-up. Though he was mostly relegated to pinch-hitting duty, Schebler did capitalize on his cup of coffee by knocking three homers in his 40 trips to the plate, including this one in which he turned on a 96 MPH fastball on the outer third:

Schebler homer.gif

Though the GIF begins too late to see it, he has pleasantly quiet swing mechanics—a simple bat waggle for timing and a pretty subtle leg kick—but his swing can get a bit long at times. He’s likely to see a great deal more breaking balls this year to keep him off-balance and his worth to the Reds in 2016 will largely be contingent on his ability to adjust for that.

With the side of the platoon he’ll be manning, Schebler should get a lot of opportunities to impress. Divisional play will give him a lot of work in particular, as the Cubs, Cardinals, and Brewers’ starting rotations are all heavy on right-handers. That, combined with the Reds’ commitment to seasoning Jesse Winker in Triple-A, means Schebler has the potential to log 800 to 900 MLB innings this season, so long as Duvall, Cave, Yorman Rodriguez, or anybody else doesn’t leapfrog him on the depth chart (which his current slump is threatening to do).

A pragmatic (leaning towards pessimistic) projection for Schebler’s 2016 isn’t going to sound all that great to Reds fans. Schebler could very well land somewhere between Marlon Byrd and Drew Stubbs: an average around .240 with 15 to 20 homers and 10-15 stolen bases. If he can cut down on strikeouts and take a few more walks (in the vein of his Triple-A peripherals) those numbers will go up a bit and he’ll have put together a pretty solid rookie year. If he can’t, it could be a long slog of a season for the young man.

Schebler has the same gauntlet laid before him that all fringe prospects of his profile encounter when making the jump to the majors—show better plate discipline and make adjustments or be relegated to the role of fifth outfielder and pinch hitter. There’s enough in Schebler’s toolshed to reasonably hope for him to exceed expectations, but that hope is inextricably tied to his power numbers. Patience is going to be necessary—Schebler’s been a slow starter in the past—but could quickly be rewarded when the heat and humidity of the Cincinnati summer make the outfield fence at Great American seem a whole lot closer.

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24 Responses

  1. David

    I do think that Schebler could play a bit of Centerfield this year, if Billy Hamilton does nothing with the bat (which he is threatening to do). If Schebler bats 0.250, with 10-11 Hr, that is a HUGE improvement over Hamilton’s OPS. It could be that Schebler plays Center for 6-7 innings, with Duvall in Left, and then after the 7th, moves to left with either Jake Cave or Billy coming in to play center.
    He is not a long term solution to CF, but then, neither is Billy Hamilton, IMHO. We got to the playoffs in 2013 with Shin-soo Choo in CF; who was a solid outfielder but nothing flashy in center. With the superior centerfielder Hamilton playing in 2014 and 2015, the Reds have finished in 4th and 5th place.
    My personal preference is the Reds find a way to dump Hamilton completely and Peraza and Cave platoon in Center this year, until BP goes on to wherever he will end his career, and Peraza can play second or short.

    • greenmtred

      You may be undervaluing defense in center. Hamilton , evidently, has significant value to the team on the strength of that alone. Replacing a great fielder with a good fielder who has a much better bat is one thing. Replacing him with a guy with a weak arm and questionable glove is a different matter entirely, unless, like Choo (who was evidently dismal as a center fielder) he is going to finish in the top 5 in OBP.

      • Jack

        I don’t think he undervalues defense . I like Hamiltons speed . He brings nothing to the plate though. I would fear the pitcher more than him. I would rather have Cave in center. I can only hope Hamilton shows us something this year .

      • Patrick Jeter

        Sounds like he and you both are undervaluing defense

        Hamilton is so much better at CF than Cave, Schebler, or anyone else the Reds might toss out there that they’d need to be league-average (or likely better) hitters to match Hamilton’s value. Don’t forget the base running, too.

        At this point, Hamilton is a significantly better CF overall than anyone other player in the Reds system. Of course, all those guys could prove me wrong with a nice rookie season!

      • Tom Diesman

        Tyler Holt is a very good CF and base runner as well and is better at the plate.

      • Steve Mancuso

        And yet, won’t get reasonable consideration.

      • David

        No one is denying that Billy Hamilton is a much, much better CF than Shin-soo Choo was. And what is the point?
        The Reds made the playoffs with Choo playing that “terrible” CF in 2013, and have been lousy to awful with Hamilton in CF. It’s certainly not all due to Billy, because the starting pitching was truly awful after Leake and Cueto were traded last year. But he is pretty much an offensive null as CF. Very low slugging, very low OPS. Steals bases and scores….when he gets on. But we keep hoping he becomes something more, his OBP goes up, he hits. I’ve seen enough, and I don’t think that’s ever going to happen.

      • greenmtred

        Nobody would argue that they don’t want BH to improve his hitting (and walking), but too many other changes occurred between Choo’s tenure and Billy’s to point to Billy as the reason they haven’t made the playoffs.

      • lwblogger2

        I’m not sure I’ve seen enough to conclude that he’s never going to hit. His defense is so good that if he can even get on base at around a league average rate, he’s a valuable MLB starting CF.

        Considering the Reds are tanking, er, I mean, rebooting, there isn’t much to lose by seeing what Hamilton can give you over one more season. He’s still dirt cheap and the Reds aren’t going to win with Trout in CF quite honestly.

  2. WVRedlegs

    His triples numbers in the minors are impressive for a power guy. Consistent too. Hope we see many rips from him down the right field line and the chance to turn two bags into three bags.

    • ohiojimw

      A problem is that with Schebler being a LH bat, the pull spin on the balls he hits into the RF corner isn’t likely to create many balls that just die there in the corner; and, those are the ones that tend to produce 3B hits at GABP for folks not named Billy Hamilton. But we can hope.

      • ohiojimw

        maybe because of the jump out of the batter’s box?

        I was thinking that at GABP in particular, triples typically happen when the ball literally dies in the corner and the fielder has to go all the way to the ball to retrieve it. An RH batter’s tailing (dying) hits to right would fade into the corner. a lefties away from the corner and toward a fielder?

        It would be interesting to see the LH/RH data specifically for GABP.

      • Patrick Jeter

        Also might be because of some sort of speed bias. Perhaps faster players end up being lefties in order to take advantage of bunts/infield hits.

        Maybe could run a correlation between SB and whether or not a player was LH.

      • Streamer88

        Your points about him and GABP were good ones and it got me thinking more in general. The difference by decades thing (its in the link) is interesting.

        Your point about pulling balls is likely true. He’s prolly not going opposite or gap and cruising into 3rd like Ichiro did at Safeco.

      • cfd3000

        It’s the throw from right vs. left that makes the difference on triples. Batter’s box is a minor factor. Lefties tend to pull the ball to right, and it’s a much longer throw to third from there. See my comment 03/26 at 10:24 am.

  3. Chuck Schick

    The questions around Hamilton’s offensive prowess should be answered this year. If he
    “Is what he currently is” then it will boil down to what the Reds philosophy will be moving forward. If their future focus is on pitching and defense, then he’ll likely be the CF whether he can hit or not.

    15 years ago, OBP started to become extremely expensive and defense didn’t seem to matter. It became cheap enough for teams to stock pile enough good defensive players to be competitive (Pirates). We’ll see which way the pendulum swings.

  4. BigRedMike

    If Hamilton bats at the bottom of the order and plays great defense, he has a place in MLB. If he bats at the top of the order, then it is a problem.
    Just not sure Hamilton will ever be able to hit at the MLB level.

  5. cfd3000

    The main reason lefties get more triples than righties is the big difference in the length of the throw from right field to third compared to from left. Other factors, including an extra step out of the batter’s box, are a small influence by comparison. Here’s hoping Schebler, Duvall, Hamilton and Bruce all surprise us at the plate this year.

  6. Carl Sayre

    The question I think needs to be answered about CF is Holt enough of a difference maker at the plate to make up for the difference in speed and defense and can he maintain it over a full season? IMHO Holt is close enough in speed that his hitting should make him the starting CF. The other 3 Schebler, Cave and Duvall are so far below Hamilton in playing defense I don’t see it being a consideration. I would like to see Holt get a chance to be the starting CF and if he is Hamilton cannot take up a roster spot as a PR and a late inning defensive replacement. He could go to Louisville and play everyday and see if he can get it figured out there and be ready if Holt just isn’t up to the task. I like the Schebler, Duvall platoon idea in LF with Cave as the 4th outfielder. I don’t mean that we should close the book on Hamilton because I love the glove and the speed but Holt should get his look.

  7. Steve Y

    I heard Orel Hershiser’s comment on the LA broadcast of the Reds game yesterday that Billy Hamilton hits the ball in the air more than Nelson Cruz. That is definitely one of the problems. Dee Gordon figured that out. Hopefully Billy can too.

  8. Steve Schoenbaechler

    They recently had something in the Enquirer about the potential lineup. I say start Peraza in CF, bench Hamilton. Let Yorman go; he hasn’t produced anywhere. The better hitter between Cave and Schleber, platoon with Duvall in LF. Send the other to the minors or let go.

    That better plays to Hamilton’s strength, or against his weakness. Bottom line, the more he hits, the worse this team is. Bring him in from the bench. All kinds of situations we can do that. For instance, most obvious, if we are blowing someone away or getting blown away, send him in around the 6th. Other situations:

    – if, around the 6th, and we are needing another run, and we have someone on base, put Hamilton in.
    – at the same timeframe, if we have a lead and want to protect it, put Hamilton in.

    Bottom line, his strength is speed and defense, not offense. The more he bats, the worse we are.