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Viva El Birdos Cardinals 2018 Prospect Rankings: #19 Scott Hurst

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Cardinals top draft pick from a year ago has some tools.

NCAA Baseball: College World Series-Cal State Fullerton vs Oregon State Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

Editor’s Note: A.E. Schafer aka the red baron has once again compiled a rather impressive list of Cardinals prospects doing a write-up on 40 individual prospects. As a convenience to our readers, he releases the list in a couple big chunks so everyone can read about all of the prospects at once. While that is a convenience to all of us who eagerly await the arrival of prospect lists, it might not be as convenient if you are looking for a player’s particular scouting report. So, as a further convenience, we are putting the individual scouting reports in separate posts to make individual players easier to find. You can find the full lists on our 2018 prospect page here. —CE

#19: Scott Hurst, OF

5’10”, 175 lbs; Bats/Throws: Left/Right

DOB: 25 March 1996; Drafted Rd 3 2017

Level(s) in 2017: State College (SS+)

Notable Numbers: 242 PA, .282/.354/.432, 136 wRC+, 9.1% BB, .370 BABIP, 6/10 SB

So, what’s so great about this guy?

Remember, a handful of years ago, when it seemed like the Cardinals just couldn’t find any centerfielders? The system was lousy with corner outfield types, the big league club was relying on latter-career Jon Jay to hold down the fort in center, and it just didn’t seem like the Redbirds scouted the sort of athletic qualities that lend themselves to playing the rangiest position on the field.

Well, those days are long gone by this point, as the Cards have center field candidates galore, even if some of them have some question marks next to that CF designation. They’re not all slam dunks, but if you look at the system right now we could list something like seven players appearing in this top 30 who should be capable of playing center at a reasonable or better level in the big leagues. That number would be eight, had not Magneuris Sierra been moved.

Scott Hurst falls squarely into that emerging demographic of Cardinal draft focus, as a somewhat undersized, but athletically gifted, center field candidate. He was actually the club’s first pick in the draft this year, a result of Dexter Fowler and hacking penalties, and for where the club selected him, in the mid-late third round, I think they may have come away with a really nice player.

Hurst missed a lot of time his first two seasons at Cal State Fullerton with a back/spine injury, and was in danger of falling through the cracks considering how loud the tools were coming into college. He got healthy in time for his junior year, though, and posted a .994 OPS and 1:1 K:BB ratio this spring for the Titans. His name jumped back into high-mid round consideration (I had him in a spreadsheet from 2014, but didn’t write him up), and the Cards gambled with their first pick, trying for some upside to compensate somewhat for their lack of early selections.

As far as tools go, Hurst is as loaded for bear as nearly any player in the system. He’s fast and rangy in the outfield, probably a 60 on the speed and 55 on the glove, and I think he stays in center long-term. He has an absolute rocket arm, being clocked over 100 mph multiple times on throws from the outfield. Probably a 70 grade there. If he develops further defensively, he could be a real impact player in center field, I believe. He moves to a corner, though, and the bat suddenly has to carry way more of the load.

And what about that bat? Well, it’s good, but comes with question marks. The missing two years of baseball in his college career add some risk to his offensive profile, I believe, but at his best Hurst has wonderful zone discipline and roughly average raw power. He struck out more than I would have liked in his pro debut, but that K number also elevated toward the end of the season, suggesting some fatigue setting in or adjustments from pitchers.

My favourite thing about Hurst, bar none, is his batting stroke. If every player swung like Scott Hurst, the world would be a better place. Well, except for pitchers, who would live in a dystopian nightmare of gap doubles and slashing liners to the opposite field. Beautiful balance, full leg kick, pretty much ideal hand load and bat path for me. He doesn’t have quite enough of an uppercut that I want to peg him as a flyball approach guy, but the swing should generate hard contact in the air at an above-average rate, I believe.

Hurst is a risky player, having missed time already and lacking ideal size. But the physical gifts are substantial, and I think the payoff, if he develops, could be as well.

If he’s good, it will look like: How about Andrew Toles as a multidimensional athlete who makes things happen with all of his physical abilities? Toles is more of a true burner than Hurst, but otherwise I like the comp.

via The Prospect Pipeline: