â€œSchhhhhrrrrraw-haw-hawk,â€� he wailed and whimpered, over and over, to no one in particular. It might surprise you to learn that despite being Max Schrockâ€™s #1 supporter, I still approve this morningâ€™s trade that sent Schrock and fellow middle infield prospect Yairo MuÃ±oz to the St. Louis Cardinals for right-fielder Stephen Piscotty.
This despite the fact that as I went to bed last night, having not heard Schrockâ€™s name once mentioned in connection to the talks, I had a sudden panic attack over who the second piece would be in the deal. â€œJust be anyone but Schrock,â€� I pleaded to the same no one in particular. Itâ€™s not that Schrock was the Aâ€™s best prospect — itâ€™s that I knew full well A.J. Puk, Franklin Barreto, Sean Murphy et al were not going anywhere. Schrock was the only prospect potentially on the table that would break my heart.
That being said, for Oaklandâ€™s #13 and #17 prospect the team landed a cost-controlled RFer for the next 5 years, albeit one whose future production is difficult to agree on. Here are my takes on the three players in the deal, explaining why I both like the trade and am also disappointed.
To those bearish on Piscotty, I think a few essential factors are being overlooked. Often characterized as â€œabout average at everything,â€� Piscottyâ€™s ceiling is certainly no lower than the actual 2016 season he actually already had in the big leagues, and it was very good.
In his first full season, Piscotty hit .273/.343/.457 with 22 HRs and above average RF defense, then showed in 2017 that even in a â€œworst case scenarioâ€� season â€” one in which patellar tendonitis, a few bonks on the head, and a family tragedy all collided â€” he could still maintain a solid .342 OBP.
Now he comes home to the team for which his family are season ticket holders, and you have to think that whatever is the best Piscotty has to offer, he will provide it in the green and gold. If he just puts up the numbers that comprise his career stats to date (.268/.346/.438) he will be a true bargain. He sports a gaudy career .390 OBP against LHP for a team that has especially struggled to hit southpaws the past 2 seasons.
What do I expect from Piscotty? I see a player fully capable of batting .270/.350/.420 with above average RF defense, able to anchor RF for 5 seasons at a cost of about $6M/year. Not every position is going to house a star, nor does it need to. You need some â€œaverageâ€� players and on a good team those â€œaverageâ€� players are actually above average. I think Piscotty, playing for his hometown team and able to spend more quality time with his family, will prove to be an above average every day RFer and that his contract will prove to have been a team-friendly one in the end.
I had no qualms about dealing MuÃ±oz, even though the Cardinals are getting a highly talented and still very young (22) player whose ceiling is fairly high. First off, you have to give up talent in order to get it, but also as talent goes MuÃ±oz has multiple red flags that make me think he is more likely to bust than to boom.
For starters, MuÃ±ozâ€™ low BB rate is an ongoing trend. Even in his breakout season of 2017, at AA and AAA combined MuÃ±oz could only parlay a .300 batting average into a very pedestrian .330 OBP. He has pop in his bat for sure, but more often than not minor leaguers who struggle to walk get exploited on the big stage.
Also there are questions around where MuÃ±oz will play defensively, even though he has many strong attributes at the very most challenging position of shortstop. Blessed with a strong arm and plus athleticism, MuÃ±oz nonetheless plays a very spotty SS leading some scouts to predict he will eventually move to 2B or CF where there is also no guarantee he will thrive.
The Cardinals could wind up stealing a star, but more likely â€” and this is my prediction â€” they are getting another talented athlete who will ultimately fall short of harnessing his many raw tools. Given how deep the Aâ€™s currently are at 2B/SS, giving up MuÃ±oz in order to get better in the outfield is a trade Iâ€™ll make any day.
Itâ€™s all fun and games to joke about my strong belief in Schrock and to exaggerate that he is a â€œfuture Hall-of-Famer,â€� but let me be serious for a moment and explain the truth behind my repeated support of Schrock as a prospect.
Itâ€™s easy to follow all the mainstream scouting reports and to believe in all the guys widely adored elsewhere, to be bearish on all the guys scouts donâ€™t seem to love. If you are going to be more than a parrot as an analyst, you have to identify some â€œcanâ€™t missâ€� prospects and say, â€œI think theyâ€™ll miss,â€� and you have to identify some â€œdiamonds in the roughâ€� and say, â€œTheyâ€™re going to succeed despite the tepid reports.â€�
For me, Schrock was that guy who never gets a lot of love but who actually deserves some. No doubt he is an average defensive player without a great deal of power, and this certainly limits his ceiling. His critics have pointed out that his success is especially dependent on maintaining a high batting average. Hereâ€™s the thing…
First off, at ages 21 and 22 Schrockâ€™s batting averages in A and AA have been as follows:
His career batting average is .324 and his career OBP is .372. All the guy has done is hit and hit for average, without a stumble. Can he do it at the big league level? Hereâ€™s why I think he can…
A playerâ€™s batting average is a combination of his BABIP (batting average on balls in play) and his Ks (strikeouts, in which the ball is not put in play). Due to his lack of power, Schrock will lose some hits to the outfield because outfielders can play him a bit shallow. However, with a line drive stroke and a â€œline-to-lineâ€� spray chart, Schrock is still a candidate to maintain a reliably high BABIP, such as .330. (For a frame of reference Adam Eaton, a similar type hitter but with more speed, has a career BABIP of .335.)
Where Shrock is truly special is that he so rarely strikes out. Itâ€™s not just a strong skill, itâ€™s an elite one rarely seen at this scope: in 1,201 career plate appearances, Schrock has struck out exactly 100 times. When you strikeout that seldom, with a BABIP of .330 you can hit .300. And thatâ€™s what I think Schrock is capable of doing.
What do I expect from Schrock in the big leagues? I think he can hit .300/.350/.420 with roughly average 2B defense, and while that isnâ€™t actually a Hall-of-Famer itâ€™s a very valuable player to have.
I also felt Schrock was an especially perfect fit with the Aâ€™s core of Matt Chapman and Matt Olson who, along with Khris Davis, provide a ton of power but a low batting average and a lot of strikeouts. A high average, sure contact hitter such as Schrock would have complemented them perfectly and I believe that even with Franklin Barreto and Jorge Mateo on the rise, if you have a player who can bat around .300 with good on base skills, you will find time for him. I think he would have been a great addition to the Aâ€™s core and I was hopeful that Oakland saw him as being that much of a keeper even though the prevailing view is that heâ€™s a more marginal prospect.
Oaklandâ€™s loss is St. Louisâ€™ gain, as I predict Schrock will have a career that contributes more than MuÃ±oz, more than some of the guys the Aâ€™s kept, e.g., Sheldon Neuse. I can predict that the Aâ€™s will fondly remember the day they added Piscotty and still concurrently predict that the Aâ€™s will rue the day they gave up Schrock. And thatâ€™s what Iâ€™m anticipating.
Overall, though? I think the Aâ€™s have made a really solid addition who has a bit more upside than he is being given credit for, at the expense of two â€œfar from sure thingsâ€� â€” we call those â€˜prospectsâ€™ â€” at positions where they were not even #1 on the Aâ€™s depth chart going forward. Itâ€™s a good trade, even if my heart is now but a tattered remnant of what it once was. Perhaps someone can grab a defibrillator and schrock it back to life.