(Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire)
What do you know about Scott Schebler? Likely not as much as you might know about him if his name was Dax Blaze, or Brody Lionsbane. That’s because Scott Schebler is the victim of something I refer to as the Joe Schmo Effect. The Joe Schmo Effect is a phenomenon wherein an unheralded player with an unremarkable name gets largely overlooked despite above-average production. Why does this happen? Because there’s a lot to keep track of in fantasy baseball. When evaluating a pool of hundreds of players, sometimes we have to make snap decisions. And sometimes those decisions are informed by totally irrational things like a guy’s “name value.” All things being equal, I’d probably prefer a guy named Jabari Blash over a guy named Scott Schebler. Jabari Blash sounds like the name of a superhero. Scott Schebler sounds like a guy who fills out expense reports for a living.
That said, Scott Schebler had himself an underrated season in 2017 that’s worth your attention. Schebler ranked 22nd in all of baseball last year in Hard%, ahead of guys like Giancarlo Stanton and Mike Trout. When you narrow the criteria to just outfielders, he ranked 7th. His .252 ISO ranked 21st in baseball, just behind Gary Sanchez. When you’re rubbing elbows with names like Stanton, Trout, and Sanchez, there’s not doubt you’ve got some top-tier power.
But where did this uptick in power come from? After all, Schebler posted a much more pedestrian .167 ISO in 2016, hitting just nine homers over the course of 282 plate appearances. Part of it can be explained by a noticeable increase in his launch angle. In 2016 it was a very low 6.5 degrees. In 2017 he upped it to 10.3 degrees. Here’s a pretty picture to illustrate the change:
See all those extra spikes poking out between 0 degrees and 30 degrees in 2017? Those are very beneficial additions to his launch angle profile. Especially those two new ones between 20 degrees and 30 degrees, because that’s where a lot of home runs happen. What’s interesting is that Schebler’s 10.3 degree launch angle was below the 2017 MLB average. Yet he still managed to hit 30 home runs in 473 at-bats. If he continues to make strides in elevating the ball in 2018, and pairs it with his already excellent hard-hit rates, we could be in store for a special season.
Now, these are all fairly encouraging statistics in their own right. But they’re all slightly tainted by a month of the season last year where Schebler played through a bruised rotator cuff, with predictably disastrous results. Here are some monthly splits from Schebler’s 2017 campaign. See if you can spot the month where he was playing hurt:
It stands out like a sore thumb, doesn’t it? July was Schebler’s worst month in every single one of those categories. Schebler injured his shoulder diving for a ball at the end of June, but didn’t hit the DL until August 1. During that time he had about as bad a July as a hitter could have, dragging down his overall stat line quite a bit. Generally I don’t condone writing off entire bad months from a player’s season, as the ups and downs are necessary to paint an accurate picture of their ability. But in cases where there’s an easily pinpointed period of time where a documented injury occurred, I believe that isolating and removing that period can help paint a clearer picture of a player’s true talent. Hopefully you agree, because we’re going to take a look at Schebler’s July-less 2017 stats regardless:
That, by most accounts, is a very solid 385 at-bat sample. In terms of counting stats, it puts him on a 600 at-bat pace for 42 home runs, 82 runs, and 96 RBI. It also pulls his average up nearly in line with his xAVG from last year, which was .260. Is this, perhaps, a glimpse at what he can do when he’s healthy?
Something that does give me pause on Schebler is his penchant for pulling the ball on the ground. As mentioned earlier, Schebler traded a significant amount of grounders for flyballs in 2017. However, his groundball rate still sat at 45.6% on the year. He also saw his Oppo% drop from 25.3% to 20.4% between 2016 and 2017. For a lefty, this can be dangerous, as it makes him more prone to losing hits to the shift. That said, it’s not something he’s struggled with up to this point in his career. He hit .251 against the shift in 2017, compared to .253 with no shift. And in 2016 he hit an incredible .339 against the shift in 124 at-bats against it.
One last thing of note is that Schebler was no slouch in the stolen base department during his time in the minors. He had four consecutive seasons of double-digit steals and swiped a total of 17 as recently as 2015. He’s also logged over 30 games in center field over the past two seasons, signifying some degree of mobility on his part. Though the speed hasn’t translated to the majors yet, I don’t think that 10 stolen bases are outside the realm of possibility for a healthy Schebler.
Is Scott Schebler the next J.D. Martinez? No, probably not. Scott Schebler is Scott Schebler. But a Schebler by any other name would be just as sweet, so don’t overlook him. Lord knows you wouldn’t if his name was Finnegan McFreeze.