Acquired: Draft, 2008 - 19th Round, #575 Overall
Player Profile & Career Summary:
There's one fact we know for certain heading into 2014: Xavier Scruggs can mash AA pitching. He's spent the better part of his minor league career in the Texas League where he's compiled an overall line of .242/.351/.470 in 1190 PA's, including 59 homers -- which is impressive, even when you consider his age relative to league.
Scruggs has never been considered much of a prospect: He even took a demotion to Palm Beach when his job went to Matt Adams in 2011. Despite playing both 3B and OF in college has not once played either of those spots since being drafted out of UNLV in 2009, although he has been getting a look this spring at both positions as the Cardinals decide whether he can be a decent utility option for them at the big league level.
Scruggs is the prototypical "Three True Outcomes" hitter: The majority of his PA's are going to end up being a walk, a strikeout, or an extra base hit of some sort and his rate stats in AA bear this out:
A la Pedro Cerrano, the voodoo practicing slugger from the movie Major League, Scruggs also is a dead red fastball hitter and struggles mightily with good breaking stuff. His eye at the plate has been able to limit the damage from his inability to hit the curveball at the AA level, but its certainly something that has hindered his progression as a prospect and likely why he hasn't seen any time in Memphis despite already being 26 years old.
You can see how badly he's fooled on the last pitch of this plate appearance. I know, I know -- even great hitters look bad from time to time and we've all seen Matt Holliday get fooled and wave over the top of a pitch like a helpless caveman. This happens far to often to Scruggs though and in AAA and MLB pitchers will likely give him a healthy serving of breaking balls in the strike zone with fastballs up, in, and out of the zone to entice him to chase. I would expect his K-rate to stay well above 30% as he plays this season in Memphis unless something is done.
All that said -- his swing is athletic and a bit on the long side, but absolutely vicious when attacking the baseball. I mentioned in RB's Spring Training preview post a month or so back that I thought Scruggs had a chance to be an impressive player in camp if only due to the fact that he rarely gets cheated at the plate and has some pretty epic swings and misses...as well as some epic tape-measure shots when he connects.
Scruggs plays a solid but unspectacular first base. He runs better than most players at the position and can use his athleticism in the field with decent range to either side. The hands have been a bit of an issue at times and the arm isn't great, which is likely why he hasn't seen any action at 3B in his minor league career.
I, for one, don't quite understand why he's not been given a shot to play more in LF. Scruggs runs well and a move to the outfield solves the hands issue and opens up some more opportunities for playing time -- until this year anyway, where the Memphis and Springfield teams are crowded with enough outfielders to field 4 minor league teams.
He's on the 40 man roster There's no first baseman currently slated to start the year for Memphis so he's not likely going anywhere early in the year and will get a chance to prove himself against AAA pitching for the first part of the 2014 season. Mozeliak said on Sunday that the front office has been impressed with Scruggs' play so far this spring and he's gotten some practice field time at both 3B and the OF, surely an audition for a possible utility role with the big club sometime in 2014.
Sluggers who are 26 (and nearly 27) who've never played above A ball don't have a ton of value on the trade market, but being a right handed slugger in 2014 certainly won't hurt his trade value any. If you look around the high minors, there seems to be a shortage of right handed power bats, even at the traditional power hitting spots in the corner infield and outfield.
Starting 1B for Memphis, possibly seeing time at 3B and LF if he's at all in consideration for a utility spot later in the year. Striking out a ton, walking more than most, and hitting the occasional big fly -- that's been his M.O. throughout the minors and I expect to see more of the same in 2014.
Correction: This post originally referred to Scruggs as a member of the Cardinals 40-man roster. He is not on the 40-man roster at present.