With the 2019 amateur draft only three weeks away, the Prospect Stock Watch is reviewing some of the players from last year’s draft. Today, we’re checking in on 13th overall selection Connor Scott of the Miami Marlins.
The decision to start 2019 in full-season ball was a surprising move by the Marlins. The young outfielder was drafted out of a Florida high school where he was a two-way player (left-handed pitcher and outfielder). At the time of the draft, I wrote that Scott should be selected in the first or second round — but as a pitcher. Admittedly, the scouting consensus at the time was that he should be selected as a hitter due to his toolsy, athletic skill set. I personally loved his easy delivery, great pitcher’s frame and potential to develop at least two above-average offerings from the left side.
After he signed with the Marlins as an outfielder last June, he was assigned to Rookie ball where he posted a .630 OPS in 27 games. He was then oddly pushed up to Low-A ball for another 23 games where the OPS dipped to .572 and he struck out 30% of the time. On the plus side, he showed a willingness to take a walk with an 11% walk rate.
Still, the initial results would suggest some time in extended spring training this year might be beneficial for a player who was already behind the eight ball in his development due to his time split between two vastly different focuses. And Scott is extremely thin for a pro athlete. He has yet to put on any mature muscles; the ability to spend additional time in the gym with a regimented diet plan rather than riding around in buses and eating restaurant food may have served him well.
But he was assigned back to Low-A ball and Scott’s results in 2019 have not been encouraging, although the solid walk rate has continued at 8%. He’s hitting just .198 with a .577 OPS. And the balls-in-play numbers show that he’s failing to drive the ball with authority on a consistent basis.
But how does he look?
I watched him on May 10 when he faced a fellow 2018 first round draft pick in Shane McClanahan — a former top college hurler who is still in Low-A ball because of his control issues (plus the Rays are an ultra-conservative organization when it comes to development). The recently-turned 22-year-old hurler absolutely overpowered the spindly 19-year-old outfielder in three at-bats.
Scott showed a whippy swing and his head often flew off the pitch as he swung. There is almost no hope of consistent power with his approach. He doesn’t use his legs to create a strong base to hit from and, as previously alluded to, he lacks upper body strength to do much damage with his upper half. This helps to explain why his line-drive rate has been just 15%.
To be fair, the match-up was a tough one for the lefty hitter given McClanahan’s pedigree and good stuff from the left side. The pitcher should probably be in High-A ball while Scott should probably be in extended spring training. The difference in skill levels (as well as physical maturity) was painfully evident. Scott was overpowered by the fastball and flummoxed by the breaking ball. He struck out twice on breaking balls after falling behind on fastballs and the one ball he hit squarely resulted in a ground ball to the shortstop.
There are things to like. Scott has patience, which is incredibly difficult to develop. He has loose athleticism and the ability to impact the running game when he gets on base. Scott also showed a decent understanding of what the pitcher was trying to do — he just wasn’t strong enough to execute against a much more mature pitcher.
His development path will no doubt be impacted by his ability to improve his body and get stronger. An extra year in extended spring training (and short-season ball) probably would have kept him on the same development time frame to reach the Majors. By rushing him to full-season ball the Marlins have likely extended the time he’ll need to stay in A-ball before he’s mature enough to handle the jump to Double-A.
It seems like he’s at least another year away from being a Top 100 prospect and being considered relevant for dynasty baseball leagues.
Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.