TCN 2015 Cards Prospect #30: Xavier Scruggs

In his seventh season, the first baseman made his MLB debut and cracked our top 40 for the first time.

The Cardinal Nation/ Player Profile

School: University of Nevada – Las Vegas

2014 rank Pos. DOB Ht. Wt. Bat Thw Signed Round
NR 1B 09,23,87 6-1 220 R R 2008 19th

Selected 2014 stats

Mem 0.286 0.336 472 82 135 29 21 87 53 114 3 0.380 0.370 0.494 0.864
StL 0.200 0.375 15 0 3 1 0 2 2 7 0 0.287 0.333 0.267 0.600

Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)

Message board community (29): Xavier Scruggs began receiving votes at #29 in the community discussion and won right away.

Mudville believes Scruggs had a breakout season in 2014. He thinks Scruggs is one of the Cardinals prospects with the best chance to see some serious Major League action in 2015. Freshjmm thinks adding outfield to his list of positions would greatly help his future. During the vote, I noted that Scruggs had been playing the outfield in the Dominican League this winter, but it was apparently abandoned.

Desmetlax12 believed Scruggs to be the best power bat left at this point in the rankings, while Scruggs’ extremely high strikeout rate negatively colored SoonerinNC’s opinion of him as a prospect. - Jeremy Byrd

Derek Shore: Never having been ranked throughout his seven-year career in the organization, Scruggs finally garnered enough votes to crack the top 40. It took success at the highest level possible of the minor leagues and a cup of coffee at the major-league level when call-ups rolled around last September.

Scruggs was perhaps the organization’s most impactful hitter as far as producing runs as indicated by his system-wide leading 87 RBI for the Memphis Redbirds in 2014. His contributions over the season put him over the top to be the TCN’s 2014 Memphis Player of the Year.

The power-hitting first baseman has averaged 20 home runs a season the last five years, dating all the way back to 2010 when he split that season between Quad Cities and Palm Beach. This type of performance is the reason why Scruggs currently swings the organization’s best power bat even as a right-handed hitter.

His biggest weakness - which is in fact a rather glaring one for pitchers to exploit - is his huge swing (and often miss). It has been improved upon the last two seasons, but it is going to be tough to make adjustments at the big-league level when you have the track record of such high strikeout totals in the minor leagues. However, you have to appreciate the amount of work Scruggs has put in to cut down those strikeouts and show better plate discipline.

Scruggs’ role for 2015 is unknown at this point because the Cardinals haven’t addressed the right-handed power hitting need off the bench they have been seeking for quite some time now. Because he does not play any of the corner outfield spots - a requirement for this role – it more than likely takes Scruggs out of the picture and makes him the regular first baseman at Memphis again.

Brian Walton (32): You never know what will happen in baseball. In his sixth shot at our Top 40, the big man finally joined the band, and did it convincingly at number 30.

You just never know. Not many months ago, Scruggs looked hopelessly blocked. Despite Matt Adams being drafted a year later than Scruggs, Adams had quickly lapped him in their progression through the minors and seemed established at first base in St. Louis.

And if that was not bad enough, Allen Craig and his long-term contract, coupled with promising young outfielders like Oscar Taveras and Randal Grichuk, were going to eat up any excess at-bats. That was especially the case with the right-handed hitting first baseman/outfielder Craig.

Still, Scruggs went to spring camp as a non-roster invitee and held his own during an extended trial. Despite hitting just .188, he showed an improved approach at the plate, drawing more walks, eight, than hits, six.

That carried over to the regular season, when Scruggs finally made his Triple-A debut after two-plus seasons at Double-A. Not surprisingly, he struggled in his first month at the new level before improving in May and again in June.

Scruggs saved the best for last with a monster August, during which time he helped power Memphis to a division title. He was named the Pacific Coast League Player of the Week on August 17 and was the system-wide Player of the Month as named both by the Cardinals organization and The Cardinal Nation.

Even before Memphis entered the PCL playoffs, Scruggs finally realized his dream. He was added to the 40-man roster and promoted to St. Louis on September 4th.

With Adams scuffling, especially against lefties, Scruggs was given three starts and made nine final-month appearances with St. Louis. The window was small and he did not seize on the opportunity, batting just .200 (3-for-15) with two walks and a hit-by-pitch.

The strikeout bugaboo was back, too, with seven whiffs in those 15 at-bats. It was not a reflection of the process shown during the season at the minor league level, as he had improved from a totally unacceptable 39.5 percent strikeout rate at Springfield in 2013 to a more tolerable 24.1 percent with Memphis.

The Cardinals are currently looking for a veteran right-handed hitting first baseman in the free agent market. Though that addition would again appear to block Scruggs, the fact that he had such a solid season with Memphis, got his feet wet in the majors after 771 games in the minors and finally is where he is earned him his spot on this list.

For 2015? You just never know.

Our 2015 top 40 series continues: To see the entire list of top Cardinals prospects and remaining article schedule, click here. This includes the top 40 countdown and nine in-depth, follow-up articles. Most of the latter are exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation.

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