For those of you who are familiar with the world of professional scouting, you might know about ‘the eye test’.
Here’s the short definition: a player doesn’t necessarily produce big numbers, but appears to play the game well in most (or all) facets. The player simply looks the part. Over the years, I’ve seen a number of players who passed the eye test. Many of those players, sadly, passed few tests beyond that.
The Houston Astros have one particular player who far surpasses the eye test, though he has more going for him than just that. His name is Jordan Scott.
Drafted in the 14th round of the 2010 Draft by the Astros out of Riverside High School in Greer, South Carolina, Scott is a line-drive hitter who uses the whole field well. I watched Scott play the game with the Single-A Lexington Legends in the South Atlantic League in 2011 and 2012. He played only 14 games with the Legends in 2011 as a 19 year-old, then experienced his first full-season in pro ball the next year.
Appearing in 110 games in 2012, Scott drove in 43 runs on 13 doubles. He only batted .230, though he did draw 57 walks and showed both patience and a selective approach at the plate. At 20 years old, Scott was sometimes over-matched at the plate. This was essentially a by-product of playing against more experienced pitchers, and while he made frequent contact he had trouble consistently driving the ball. His swing path and bat speed, however, made him a fun batter to watch. He takes a smooth, level path to the ball, and slashes the inside pitch to the opposite field with regularity. Power is not Scott’s game. Slashing liners from gap to gap is what he does best.
Along with a sweet swing, Scott is learning to utilize his above-average speed to swipe bases at opportune times. He has worked at this a great deal, and was able to steal 25 bags out of 33 chances in 2013 with the Single-A Quad Cities River Bandits of the Midwest League. Keep in mind that, at age 21, he was still age-appropriate for his league. With his speed and approach at the plate, Scott should produce 25-30 doubles at his peak. Add to that a likely 50 RBI and 20-25 steals who could bat in either the #2 or #8 slot, and you have a versatile contributor.
Scott still has some physical projectability remaining. He has room to add 10-15 pounds without losing speed or quickness. He will likely add some upper-body strength as well.
In the field, Scott can cover all the outfield positions with ease. He appears to be best-suited for center field, where he has tallied 8 assists in 90 games. Scott has, however, played the majority of his games in left field. He reads the hit well off the bat and takes quick and efficient routes to the ball. His speed and quick reactions make him at the very least an above-average defender in left field, with the potential for more as he develops.
What makes him a ‘Deep Sleeper’, however, is a combination of the aforementioned abilities with the fact that he is the prototypical professional hitter. Scott goes about his work quietly, with a joy that is not always evident in the faces of many pro players. He works hard at his craft, to be sure, and he enjoys doing so. At his peak, many evaluators will consider him the ‘over-achiever’ type: a player who gets the most out of his abilities, and more. Baseball has seen its share of such players who have contributed in many ways. Indeed, it wasn’t so long ago that David Eckstein, the quintessential over-achiever, earned MVP honors in the 2006 World Series.
Jordan Scott is going to surprise a lot of folks who follow the minor leagues, and I’m sure that there will be a number of critics who disagree with my assessment. My advice to those of you who are unfamiliar with him: go watch him play, if you have the chance. Like I said, he won’t strike you as a top prospect. But just watch him work. Watch him as he goes about his business on the field. He’ll pass the eye test, of course. But keep watching him. He’s a professional, a blue-collar worker who puts in the effort to maximize his ability. In my estimation, players like that are always a good bet to succeed.