Scott II proving his game is about more than just speed

October 28th, 2023

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The phrase “never bunt, hit dingers” has only grown in ubiquity as baseball has embraced an all-out offensive approach in recent years. But in the case of , equipped with 80-grade speed and limited power, the higher-percentage play would actually be to drop the ball down and force the defense to try and throw him out.

At least that’s what the Cardinals’ No. 4 prospect tried to do in the bottom of the fifth inning during Scottsdale's 6-5 loss to Salt River at Scottsdale Stadium on Friday night. But after bunting a 1-0 offering foul, Scott immediately dug back in the box and let his left-handed swing rip, walloping his second home run of the Fall League deep into the night.

“The way I play is just getting on base and trying to cause havoc in any sort of way I can,” Scott said. “But it's a good opportunity to put a swing on something when he threw two sliders, and then you kind of know the fastball is coming.

“So it's time to hit at that point.”

But if you expected Scott -- with just 11 pro homers to his name -- to get greedy, think again. His next plate appearance in the seventh saw him drop down a flawless bunt to the left side of the infield, extending the frame long enough to allow the tying run to cross home.

“In the offseason, I work with [one of my old coaches back home] and all we did was bunt, bunt, bunt, bunt,” Scott said. “Talking to him, he kind of looks at the box scores, keeps up with me and he tells me like, ‘Hey man, relax on those bunts, just put them down and run.’”

Before his bat could electrify in Scottsdale, Scott attempted to do so with his legs. After knocking an RBI single in the third, the 22-year-old promptly swiped second base. By virtue of an errant throw, he hopped up and jogged to third. Getting the timing down of the catcher’s return throws to the mound was paramount as he broke for home a few pitches later, the first time he attempted to swipe home in such a fashion since college.

An alert response from right-handed pitcher Wilmer Flores (DET No. 7) led to Scott being nabbed at the dish, but that’s just all part of the havoc. By virtue of his pair of stolen bases Friday, he is tied atop the Fall League standings in steals with 12. Just three players have ever reached the 20-steal plateau in the AFL, with the single-season record having been set at 24 by Rick Holifield in 1994.

About that speed. Scott put himself on the map nationally this season by virtue of his wheels, which carried him to 94 stolen bases across 132 games between High-A Peoria and Double-A Springfield, tied with Tampa's Chandler Simpson for the most in the Minors. His 11.2 wSB was not only tops in the Minors in 2023, it more than doubled the mark of all but 17 other basestealers across all levels.

Selected in the fifth round of the 2022 Draft out of the University of West Virginia, Scott immediately set about tearing up the basepaths in the Florida State League. His 31-game foray with Single-A Palm Beach was so impressive during his debut year that he opened this year with Peoria, where he hit .282 and swiped 50 bags, impressing enough with his all-around prospect package to earn an invitation to the 2023 SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game.

Scott’s offensive numbers markedly improved in his first taste of the upper levels with Springfield, slashing .323/.373/.450 while delivering exemplary defense in center field. If he had a bugaboo during the regular season, it came in the form of strikeouts, which of course limit his ability to impact the game with that 80-grade speed (which just eight prospects across the Minors currently boast). Thus far in the AFL, Scott has just five punchouts in 61 at-bats, with nine walks to his credit.

Back on Oct. 9, Scott ripped off a 31.3 ft/sec sprint speed (30 ft/sec is considered “elite”) while tearing down the line for the Scorpions at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, the lone Fall League park equipped with Statcast technology. That mark ties Ryan Vilade for the fastest single sprint speed recorded in the AFL dating back to 2018.

“As soon as I get on base, teams start to … try and figure out something of a plan of what to do in order to maybe stop the run game or try to prevent me from scoring,” Scott said. “It's kind of a game of chess at that point. If I move this piece, they move this piece – just keep on playing the game.”