6-2 190 BL TL
DOB- Aug. 13, 1985 in Joplin, MO
Obtained- Selected in first round of 2004 draft
When a running back leads his state in rushing yardage and touchdowns as a junior you just know he's picking out the college where he'll play. Instead, Elbert gave up the sport entirely in his senior year to concentrate on baseball. He's that good on the mound and the Dodgers signed him in the first round, 17th overall, in 2004.
Elbert performed as a first round pick would be expected, moving up the franchise quickly, showing outstanding talent at each level, and setting himself up to slip into The Show in perfect 1-2-3-4 order -- Ogden, Columbus, Vero Beach and Jacksonville. Then a not-so-funny thing happened on the way to Los Angeles.
Seneca, Missouri, is a town so tiny (population 1,885) that when it produces an athlete of special skills, his reputation may grow to legendary proportions. Scott Elbert is that kind of athlete. He led the state in rushing (2,249 yards) and touchdowns (36) in his junior year of football. But baseball was his game of choice and he was so good at that that he couldn't risk getting hurt and ruining his future.
He did play basketball and starred in that, too. Then came the spring when he went 6-2 with an 0.52 ERA, 114 strikeouts against only 14 walks in just 54 innings (a dazzling 19 strikeouts per nine innings). The only question scouts had was how did he manage to lose two? Opposing batters went up and flailed, with little success, at his fast ball and curve. A changeup was out of the question; that would have been relief to the undeserving.
The Dodgers considered themselves fortunate that they were able to claim him in the 17th slot overall. In pro ball, though, things didn't come so easily. Sent to Ogden in the Pioneer League where kids fresh from high school often find it rough, no matter how talented, he was humbled by a 2-3, 5.26 mark but still struck out 45 in 49.2 innings.
In the fall of 2005 he was at the back of the learning curve. "I just went out there and threw the ball," he admits. "I didn't know a thing about pitching." But he quickly adjusted -- and prospered.
His record in 2005 at Columbus was 8-5, 2.66 and that doesn't begin to tell how well he's mastered matters. Over the last half he was virtually unhittable, and if there hadn't been pitch counts, he could have easily won in double figures. In his last eight starts, there were five no decisions, all of which he left with a lead.
Everything improved. "I was throwing my fast ball 87-88 the year before," he said. "Then it moved up to 94 at Columbus." He had a more than decent curve before but that was junked in favor of an even sharper slider. And he gained the feel for a changeup, too.
He was still somewhat of a work in progress for there were too many walks -- 57 in 115 innings. He struck out 128, though, and held opponents to a .211 batting average.
Moving up to Vero Beach in 2006, Florida State hitters managed only a feeble .193 against him; those in the Southern League, where he spent the last part of the season, actually fared worse with a .187 mark. Lefthanders couldn't hit .150 against him. In 146 innings, he struck out a whopping l73 batters.
Elbert was promoted from Vero Beach with a bland 5-5 record but had been a victim of non-support most of the season while posting a 2.37 ERA with 97 strikeouts in 83.2 innings. He threw a one-hitter -- and lost, so bad has the Vero offense been in the majority of his starts.
At age 20, the Dodgers didn't want to expose the young righthander to the difficult pitching conditions at Las Vegas in the Pacific Coast League until he had more innings on his resumé, so he opened 2007 with the Suns. He had been bothered by shoulder pain at the end of the '06 season and was held out of he Arizona Fall League and given the off-season to rest.
He started three times for Jacksonville and was overpowering, allowing six hits in 14 innings and had struck out 24, holding Southern League batters to a .128 average. But then the pain returned, worse than before, and he was sidelined.
The diagnosis was tendinitis and the cure for that was exercises and therapy, trying to avoid surgery if at all possible. Elbert rehabbed under the guidance, Dr. Frank Jobe and Stan Conte, director of medical services. It was eventually determined that an operation was necessary and he missed the rest of the season.
However, when the regular season ended, a group of 20 scouts were asked to list the top 30 players in order that they believe rate at the head of any list. The only criteria they had to use was that all had to still hold rookie status for next year.
Lefthander Clayton Kershaw was fourth, third baseman Andy LaRoche is 33rd and Elbert was 36th. The inclusion of Elbert among the top group was quite a distinction for he pitched in only three games in 2007 before his shoulder went out. Yet he was impressive enough in those appearances to rate inclusion.
Elbert seemed to be ready for the 2008 season, but the Dodgers were going to take it slowly with their remarkable prospect. The scouts are enthusiastic about his stuff but that he sometimes has command problems. However, he gets so much out of his moving mid-90's fast ball and curve that he can overcome that.
Using him carefully, averaging less than two innings per game, he recorded a 2.4o earned run average, the best mark by a receiver in the system and also led all relievers with a skimpy 4.82 hits per nine innings. His strikeouts dropped from the spectacular to the exceptionally good, nailing 46 in 31 innings (10.10) while cutting down on his walks per inning.
He has a brief shot with the Dodgers in the final weeks of the season, working six innings over 10 games but he was tagged for nine hits and a resulting 12.00 ERA. He did give a glimpse of the future when he struck out eight in his six innings while walking four.
It's obvious that he has the stuff to be a front-of-the-rotation starter in the big leagues if that is what the Dodgers choose to do with him. Some have suggested he would be the situational lefty out of the bullpen and most projections place him in the pen, but with the tail-end of the starting rotation somewhat questionable, he may find a home there later in the year.
Even after missing most of a season, he's only 23, and perhaps the stars have begin to line up properly for him. He will battle for a spot on the Los Angeles staff and should see his first action in The Show in April.
Scott Elbert year team w-l era gm gs in h bb so 2004 Ogden 2-3 5.26 12 12 50 47 30 45 2005 Colm 8-5 2.66 15 24 115 83 57 128 2006 VBch 5-5 2.37 17 15 84 57 42 97 Jack 6-4 3.61 11 11 62 40 44 76 2007 Jack 0-1 3.86 3 3 14 6 10 24 2008 Jack 4-1 2.40 25 1 41 22 20 46