THIS IS A COUNTDOWN!!!!! Over the next forty-something days starting on February 12th and ending on March 28th, I will be rolling out my Top 35 prospects in the Cardinals organization. We call it "The Dirty Thirty-Five" because it's marketable, I think. Also, we call it that because my write-ups and evaluations are a little different. I’m kind of quirky and goofy guy and the evaluations fit that personality. I've already written about the four players that graduated off the list. I've also written about the guys that just missed the list. You should check those out because you're going to have questions about my sanity afterwards. The article about the guys that didn’t make the D35 is really freaking good. This list is my own. It's terrible. I'm fine with it. Remember, have fun with these lists. Ranking prospects is a joke, but it's fun so treat all of the prospect ranking accordingly.
Scott Hurst - Outfielder
Drafted in the 3rd round of the 2017 draft
STATS AS OF 5-1-2019
Scott Hurst is an interesting prospect. For a third round selection, he probably received more attention than any other third round pick that the Cardinals have made in my life time. That is, prior to making a major league debut. That's because Scott Hurst's story is tied into the story of Chris Correa and the "Hacking Scandal" that cost the Cardinals both cash and draft picks. That, along with the fact that the Cardinals' forfeit a draft pick to sign Dexter Fowler.
With all of these restraints and punishments imposed, Hurst was the first player that the Cardinals selected in the 2017 draft. Because of that, I think, part of the fan base invested their interests a little too heavily into him immediately. That's not to say that Hurst doesn't deserve attention, just that we probably needed to adjust (shout out to “Private Joker” on Twitter for catching this) our expectations of him a little at the start.
Hurst and seventh round pick from the 2017 draft Chase Pinder will remain linked (for me) until one separates himself from the other. I did rank Hurst five spots higher than Pinder on the list, but they are as close on my individual outfield rankings as two players can possibly be.
The main reason that I give Hurst the nod (over Pinder) is because he reminds me so much of Jon Jay. The way that he uses all of the field and fights during an at-bat to get a hittable pitch. Then, the way that he "fists" that hittable pitch to all fields as needed. It's something that I absolutely love. Honestly, take a look at this .gif below. Everything about it SCREAMS "JON JAY." From the swing, to the power alley, to how he freaking trots.
Hurst is as close to Jon Jay as you'll find in the minors, minus getting hit by the amount of pitches that Jon Jay got hit by:
As I mentioned, I really like Hurst's approach at the plate. There's something professional in nature about it, and he demonstrates a feel for how he's going to be attacked that few others in the organization show as consistently as he does. Part of the reason that I ranked him ahead of Max Schrock is that his approach is something similar to what I'd like to see Schrock adopt. Hurst does such a great job of using all of the field, and that's something that I'd like to see Schrock do more.
I firmly believe that Hurst has more pop in his bat than he's displayed to this point. You can't hit the ball over the fence to the opposite field with the frequency that Hurst does without having a little more power in the tank than the seven home runs that he's hit in 535 total minor league plate appearances would indicate. It took him until his third season at Cal Fullerton to start hitting for power, and I can't help but think and hope that his third season in the Cardinals' organization just might be the year that we see him power-up a little.
Focusing solely on his home run numbers in 2018, four home runs in 273 plate appearances isn't nearly enough. Still, I feel more comfortable predicting a modest power surge out of Hurst than I do out of Pinder, Schrock, or Ortega. That's because Hurst has better bat speed and control of his swing than the others. Also, I love how quick Hurst is with his hands. They're fast and quick with very little wasted movement. This is why he's so good at "fisting" pitches in pitchers counts.
While I don't think that Hurst is as good of a defensive center fielder as I think Pinder is, I do think that he can handle the position. As I continue to make parallels to Jon Jay, the one area where Hurst has a clear advantage on Jay is in the arm strength department. Hurst's arm is well above average.
This next .gif, I really love. Here, Hurst is going to crash into the outfield wall to make the catch. I love this because it's the perfect "singular" example of the strengths and weaknesses of Scott Hurst in the outfield. First, Hurst will do everything that he has to do to get to a baseball. He'll run through a wall, if he can. He's also quick enough to get to a gapper. However, he does have a little tendency to over-pursue and sometimes that costs him. It doesn't happen too often, but it still happens and it's his biggest weakness as a fielder.
Another thing that you'll love about the .gif below is that he gets right up. Hurst is a "never let them see you sweat" kind of player and I love it.
Now, here's that .gif that I keep talking about:
There are some lingering questions about Hurst's health that many are asking. I, however, am not so worried about it RIGHT NOW. Yes, his 2018 debut was delayed about a month because of injury. Then, dealt with some nagging stuff throughout the season. Then, after getting off to a hot start following a promotion to Palm Beach in August, he found his way back onto the DL or IL or whatever we are calling it these days. He missed a little over two weeks during this injury stint, but he was hitting 303/395/424 in 38 plate appearances over nine games played before landing on the DL. When he came off of the DL, he proceeded to hit 467/526/800 (yes, a slugging percentage of .800) with one home run and two doubles in a modest 19 plate appearances over five games to end the season.
All of that is to say that, yes, injuries really hurt Hurst's offensive production and lineup availability during the 2018 season, but I'm not going to hold that against him just yet. He was good when he was healthy, and even better at Palm Beach then I expected. If the injuries persist then, yes, we'll start to question his preparedness. We aren't going to do that right now.
Because of his ability to get on base and work counts (while striking out an acceptable amount while doing those things), I really like his chances of hitting at the top of a lineup. He's not "fast" in the traditional sense, but he's a very smart base-runner with incredible baseball IQ and understanding (just like Pinder). Also, Hurst will not be outworked and he hustles on every play. He's a player full of intangibles and there isn't a moment on the field when that isn't clear. Hurst was a spark plug at the top of the lineup, when he was healthy, for Palm Beach. That's Scott Hurst at his best.
THE BOTTOM LINE
2018 was an up and down season for the currently 22-year-old outfielder. His bat and outfield defense appear to have just enough to show as a fourth outfielder-type long term, but with the chance to be a starter for a team with a loaded lineup that doesn't need more than Hurst can give. Staying healthy and displaying modest power-gains are the two goals for Hurst in 2019. He's more than likely destined to start the year at Palm Beach in the Florida State League, so don't expect too much in the way of an immediate power increase. However, if power does come, then this is going to be a special player for the Cardinals. Hurst will turn out to be a very good third round pick for the Cardinals' when it's all said and done.
MAY 1st UPDATE
Hurst more than earned his promotion to Springfield to start the season because of his play during major league camp in Spring Training, but it was always going to be a tough test for Hurst. I'm not surprised that he's struggled. He missed so much time last year, and he only had a handful of games at Palm Beach. Struggle was bound to happen. I also won't be surprised when Hurst starts to figure it out about mid-way through May.
FanGraphs provides the stats. Love that FanGraphs.
Thanks For Reading!!