Into the teens we go!
#19 Austin Schotts: 5'11", 180 lbs., CF
Well, this was certainly not the way to start off a minor league career. Schotts struggled out of the gate at Class-A West Michigan before being demoted to Connecticut, and not doing all that well there either. After a stellar campaign in the Gulf Coast Rookie League in 2012, Schotts was given an aggressive promotion to Low-A ball. However, I am still optimistic about his future, and I would not necessarily write him off due to a bad year playing against older competition.
Thanks to Austin Schotts (actually, his mom) for the video!
Projected 2014 Team: Low-A West Michigan
That heat map turned out to be helpful. As you can see, Schotts hit a lot of ground balls to the left side of the infield.
Schotts was drafted in the third round of the 2012 draft out of high school in Texas. In fact, he's one of the only high upside high school picks in the last handful of years for the Tigers, and, as y'all know, I'd love to see them take more kids like Austin. Aforementioned, 2013 was a year to forget for Austin, although developmentally, it's not always a bad thing. Kids like Schotts absolutely tear up the high school circuit, and are used to being the best player on the field at all times. However, especially in the case of a high IQ and good makeup guy like Schotts, failure isn't always the worst thing in the world. It's clear that the speedy center fielder was overmatched last year, but I would certainly expect him to come back this season with a vengeance.
Touted as probably the only true potential leadoff guy in the Tigers system, Schotts flashes an advanced and patient approach at the plate when he's going right. He isn't afraid to take a walk, and has a short, compact line drive swing. Again, when he's going right. However, he had issues with barrel control and swing plane last season, causing him to swing through and get beat by hitable pitches. You can also see that Schotts features a bit of a leg kick. He had issues getting his front foot down in time, and although the leg kick isn't as severe as Austin Jackson's used to be, it's something to keep an eye on going forward. Plenty of hitters come into pro ball with a leg kick, and decide to scrap it due to increased velocity. Timing of a leg kick against a 95 mile per hour fastball can certainly be tough, especially if a pitcher has an 80 mile per hour offspeed pitch to go along with it. I truly don't know whether or not the leg kick is here to stay, but I would definitely guess that this issue was discussed in the Tigers organization this winter, and it is something for Schotts to refine going forward.
Schotts also struggled to identify breaking balls out of the hand. With that being the case, he would get behind in counts and be forced to chase pitcher's pitches. That caused a high number of strike outs and easy putouts. For Schotts to be effective, he is going to have to put the ball in play and use that plus-plus speed and line drive swing. I've seen him flash some pop at the plate, but he's probably a 40 power guy* in the future. He will extend some singles into doubles and doubles into triples with his legs. Last year at West Michigan, I routinely had him in the 4.0-4.1 second range to first base.
Ed: That's 40 power on the 20-80 scale, not 40 homer power.
In the field, he definitely has a center field profile. He's a heady player, and takes solid-average routes. Even if he does not get a good jump, his speed more than makes up for it. Schotts possesses an average arm in center and should have no trouble making all the throws asked of him. On the bases, he is a terror. As he moves up levels and works with better coaches, he will continue to steal bags. At his peak, Schotts could steal 30-40 bases, depending how often he gets on.
I would expect Schotts to bounce back in West Michigan this year and right his prospect ship. He has the tools and profile to be an every day center fielder as long as the hit tool comes around. He was in a pretty long funk last year, and even with the demotion to Connecticut, he was still facing college draftees and was one of the younger players in the league. Even at 20, he is still age-appropriate for the Midwest League. Even if he doesn't end up as a leadoff hitter and drops lower in the lineup, Schotts could still end up as a second division regular major leaguer, as he's a plus fielder and good runner at an important position.
If Austin can pick up where he left off in 2012, in a relatively weak Tigers system, you could see him shoot up prospect lists, because the Tigers don't have many guys that look like major league regular position players. This is an important year for Schotts. Reports that I heard coming out of Connecticut and even the fall instructional league suggest that Schotts lost a bit of his swagger and looked tired in 2013. An offseason of refining his game and getting back to the basics should help the speedy center fielder.
Thanks to HueyTaxi for the photo of Schotts.