Speedy Scott on fast track to fly with Cards

February 29th, 2024

This story was excerpted from John Denton’s Cardinals Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

JUPITER, Fla. -- was standing amongst Cardinals royalty recently in the team’s clubhouse, but this was hardly a celebration or a coronation. It was about laying the groundwork for another day of growth and progress for the 23-year-old outfielder.

“You playing today?” Cardinals Hall of Fame player and coach Willie McGee asked Scott, who might be both the fastest Cardinal and the fastest-rising prospect in the Cards' Minor League system.

“No, I’m not,” Scott, the Cardinals' No. 4 prospect per MLB Pipeline, said respectfully.

“Well, you’re with us, then,” McGee replied.

“Be ready to work,” Cardinals Hall of Fame instructor and former player José Oquendo added.

Work ethic certainly isn’t an issue with Scott, who has already opened eyes throughout the Cardinals organization with his attention to detail off the field and his ability to wreck defenses with his blinding speed. Rarely does Scott attend a hitting or fielding meeting without bringing a notebook and pencil with him so he can jot down scouting reports or advice given to him by veteran players. That level of dedication from the Minor League standout spoke volumes about Scott’s seriousness to learn to Cards manager Oliver Marmol.

“He’s studious, he cares and he wants to continue to grow and learn all he can about the game,” Marmol said. “He’s open to allowing others to speak into that [desire to learn]. Those are good traits to have when you are young and wanting to play this game for a long time.”

Scott, a fifth-round pick by the Cardinals in 2022 out of West Virginia University, could be on the verge of running his way onto the Cardinals' Opening Day roster. With projected center field starter Tommy Edman still out of action following offseason surgery on his right wrist and Dylan Carlson being brought along slowly after needing a left ankle procedure late last season, Scott has gotten more opportunities than he might have under normal circumstances.

Scott put himself in this position by being the co-leader in the Minors by stealing 94 bases between High-A Peoria and Double-A Springfield in 2023. In addition to winning a Gold Glove, he also hit .303 with nine home runs and 63 RBIs. He backed up that solid play by posting a .388 on-base percentage with more walks (12) than strikeouts (eight) in 23 games for the Scottsdale Scorpions in the Arizona Fall League.

Even as a non-roster invitee to Spring Training, Scott has already gotten into three Grapefruit League games. He hit a 96.5 mph rocket back at Mets pitcher Josh Walker for a single in Saturday's opener, but he’s opened more eyes with what he’s done in other you-have-to-see-it-to-believe-it instances. In that opening game against the Mets, Scott used his speed to second to beat out a potential force play and to cause a pitcher balk. Later, he arrived at the plate at nearly the same time as the baseball, knocking it away for a run.

In Tuesday’s game against the Red Sox, Scott was 0-for-2, but he still left mouths agape. He had the hardest-hit ball of the game (105.9 mph) on a liner to right, the fastest sprint speed (30.2 feet per second) while running out a grounder and the fastest thrown ball (90.4 mph).

Scott knows he still has a long way to go to reach the big leagues, but his early results have him dreaming big.

“Something I’ve always done since I was kid is think about, 'If I go about things correctly and put in the work, who can I make myself into?'” Scott asked. “That’s why I show up every day and put in as much work as possible. I’m just envisioning who is that guy I am going to become after I put in the allotted work needed.”

McGee and Oquendo keep Scott working, and he’s trying to soak up their knowledge as much as he can. It’s one of the reasons he carries around that notebook so that he can jot down the advice given to him by two distinguished members of Cardinals royalty.

“They’ve already taught me a ton, they teach me how to go about things and how I should be approaching the game,” Scott said. “Outfield-wise, they tell me all the time to just be present. I wanted to come in and really learn how to play center field and how to really conduct the outfield. I know I have priority [as the center fielder], but I want to let my corner guys work, too. The coaches have taught me so much about knowing the game and how to go about things.”