When the Cardinals dealt Stephen Piscotty to the A’s last off-season, the bounty in return included second baseman Max Schrock. Since being drafted in the 13th round of the 2015 draft, Schrock had developed a reputation as one of the most unique prospects in all of baseball. He was a darling for stat mavens in spite of (or because of?) his lack of traditional prospect accolades on top 100 lists. He was a regularly featured player on Carson Cistulli’s Fringe Five series at Fangraphs. Cistulli even once landed on Schrock as a tongue-in-cheek future MVP. He also has a neat name that’s one letter away from the guy who played Count Orlok in Nosferatu (1922).
In his first few seasons in professional baseball, in both the Nats and A’s farm systems, Schrock displayed an amazing ability to put the bat on the ball, and he walked almost as often as he struck out. His K rate was microscopic- fifth best in all of AA in his year there, fifth best in high-A in his time there, and best in A when he was there. His defense didn’t wow anyone but he ran the bases well and BABIP’ed his way to success. His progression:
- 136 wRC+ in low-A in 2015
- 142 wRC+ in half of a season of A-ball in 2016, and then a 131 in the other half of the year in high-A
- 128 wRC+ in AA in 2017
He did all of that despite a punchless ISO (in order) of .140, .133, .112, and .101. Entering 2018, he appeared on the brink of a Major League promotion if he could simply replicate his A and AA success in AAA Memphis.
He did just that through the first month. His ISO was a little lower than it had been, but all other aspects of his game were right in line with 2015-2017. The rest of the season was a massive drag on Schrock’s prospect cred. He was still making lots of contact, but didn’t do anything with it. His ISO cratered (.082 on the year) and his walk rate slipped to a career low 5.3%, over two percent lower than 2017 in AA. His BABIP had ranged from .329 to .375 in his first seasons. In 2018, it collapsed all the way down to .260. He simply wasn’t making much loud contact.
By the time the Rule 5 draft rolled around in December, he was left unprotected and no team chose to take the chance. It was an almost unthinkable sequence for Schrock considering where he began the season.
He still has time to recover. This season is his age 24 year. His BABIP-heavy profile means he’s always going to be a risk for seasons like 2018, but it also means that seasons like 2015-2017 are within reach. The strange unicorn prospect the Cardinals acquired is still in there, waiting for a 3-4 month hot streak to get his chance in St. Louis.
What do you expect from Schrock in 2019? Let us know below.