The tale of Scott Schebler is not a light-hearted feel-good romp. At this point, it feels like his fate is all but written. He seems a man destined to be lost to baseball as he reaches the point at which his salary will be determined by the arbitration process. This isn’t even an interesting or unique story. Every year, a good many players with three to six years of service time are ground to dust in the gears of the baseball economy. The minute they are due for a raise is the minute teams mark them as too expensive.
Which is not to say that they are worthless or bad at baseball. Schebler, like so many of these guys, has shown he is good enough to earn his spot on a big league roster. He’s not great, to be sure, but he hits well enough and fields well enough that he doesn’t embarass himself out there (generally speaking). But teams don’t fill rosters based simply on talent. If your team has a guy like Schebler, chances are they have at least one other guy almost as good but cheaper.
And that seems to be the inevitable conclusion for Hot Shot Scott. Within the next week or so, Nick Senzel will be called up to the big league squad and will be playing pretty much every day. And it seems likely that he will spend most of his time in center field, pushing Schebler to the bench. It didn’t always have to be this way, but here we are.
It turns out that the month of April in the year of 2019 was (is) a defining moment in Schebler’s career. With Senzel beginning the season in the minor leagues and Billy Hamilton non-tendered this past winter, Schebler was the default option in center field. His back-up this month has been Jesse Winker, for cryin’ out loud. It was a big opportunity for him to show that he could be counted on as an everyday option in an outfield without many of those.
Then he hit .139/.262/.250 with just four extra-base hits this month. Nobody in the lineup really hit anything at all in April, but nobody else has a top prospect behind him pushing for his roster spot, either. As bad as Schebler has been, he has actually hit better than both Matt Kemp and Jose Peraza (their OPS+ are 35, 27, and 25 respectively). But I dunno, man. I get the sense that when Sinful Savage Senzel gets the call, Kemp and Peraza (and even Puig, for that matter, who has struggled every bit as much as these other fellas) aren’t going to see their playing time affected all that much. For whatever reason, Matt Kemp has gotten a great deal of latitude from the org and fans alike so far. He gets the benefit of being a former All-Star and MVP. And Peraza, too, has not borne the kind of criticism that Schebler has. He is still quite young and seen as essential to the future of the middle infield.
Schebler, though, is 28. He doesn’t have the track record of Kemp or the youth of Peraza. But he has slumped at exactly the wrong time. It looks like nothing is really broken or anything with him. He is just pulling a lot of ground balls right now. Hitters go through bad stretches like this all the time and, given enough latitude, they generally straighten it out. But given all the exceptional circumstances around him right now, it doesn’t seem like he will get that latitude.
To be clear though, I cannot know for certain what the future holds. As brilliant (and stunningly handsome) as I am, I am not a shaman or seer. But it sure seems likely to me that this week will be the last one in which we will see Scott Schebler, everyday Reds outfielder. Maybe that isn’t fair or even the shrewdest baseball move, but life isn’t fair and people aren’t always the shrewdest. Alls I’m saying is you should have a beer for poor Scott Schebler while you can.