Alright boys and girls, buckle up, because it's going to be a fun one. I'll start off with a statement: I think Casey Schmitt is the most underrated San Francisco Giants prospect.
The Most Underrated SF Giants Prospect: Casey Schmitt
I know it does sound pretty bold but I've stuck on that statement since Schmitt got drafted by the Giants in the second round (their first pick of the second round) of the 2020 MLB Draft and signed for 1.15 million USD, or around 350,000 USD below slot value. I'll get to it in a second but why do I think that Schmitt is underrated, you may ask. Well, let's talk about where they are ranked at the moment. FanGraphs and Baseball America are pretty based by ranking Schmitt as their number 13 and number 11 Giants prospect, respectively. Good friend and fellow Giants prospect writer Roger Munter and MLB Pipeline are also pretty based by having him at number 13. On the other hand, Melissa Lockard of The Athletic and fellow friends and Giants prospect writers Marc Delucchi and Kevin Cunningham has Schmitt at 19, 18, and 24 respectively. This is consistent with the McCovey Chronicles community, which has him in number 24 as well. This is what makes prospect evaluation great. There will be differences of opinion.
All in all, all of those rankings averaged to Schmitt being the number 15 prospect in the Giants organization as compiled by Kevin. I originally have Schmitt ranked number 9 but after just a week of games, I already pushed him as my number 6 prospect in the Giants organization. So, why am I so high on Schmitt? What do I see from him that really buttered my croissant? I will discuss it all to you.
First, let's talk about his most well-known trait: his defense. Schmitt's defense has been labelled as one of the best, if not the best in the organization. In fact, he is considered by MLB Pipeline as the best defensive third baseman prospect in all of baseball when they named him into their inagural First-Team All-Defense. His movement in space is so refined, his glove and footwork are sound, and his ability to throw an accurate and powerful (up to 96 MPH with his fastball on the mound when he was a pitcher for San Diego State) seed from all platforms and arm angles is so jaw-dropping at times that I compared his defensive play at the hot corner to Patrick Mahomes. Those tools on defense are all boosted by his impressive situational awareness.
Those defensive tools is the reason why Schmitt has been compared to current Blue Jays third baseman Matt Chapman. Chapman is a multiple-time Platinum Glove and Fielding Bible award-winner is as stalwart as they come in the sport and having those comps for Schmitt might be a little bit too much from my conservative point of view.
However, let's now talk about why I have Schmitt ranked so highly. It all boils down to player value. Let's talk about WAR or Wins Above Replacement with Schmitt. Matt Chapman last season has a defensive WAR of 1.3 but his peak defensive WAR is 3.3 in 2019. Schmitt is already at a point that his defense already warrants plenty of respect but let's say he will likely only achieve half of the peak of Chapman's defensive WAR or a similar WAR last season. Already thinking that Schmitt will have a floor of around 1.3 WAR is already good enough to become a 45 PV (or present value) player based on that defense alone. That's a really high floor considering that if Schmitt accumulates zero WAR on offense, he will still return a positive value as a big leaguer because of his defense. That will slot him around the Josh Harrison or Matt Duffy's total value. For Schmitt, that's just his defense. As a position player prospect, Schmitt already has an advantage in terms of floor compared to pitching prospects because pitchers are much more volatile in terms of injury risk compared to position players and having such a safe baseline for a position player deserves a lot of love and respect.
There is all the talk about the defense and value but it will be the offensive potential that will determine whether he will be a platoon defender or will be an everyday third baseman in the big leagues with the potential to become even better. We looked at the scenario where Schmitt will still be a 45 PV/FV (or future value) prospect even if he will return zero offensive WAR. But is there more in the tank that we have not yet seen?
Let's take a look at Schmitt's numbers last season with San Jose. Schmitt posted a .247/.318/.406 triple slash line with 14 doubles, a triple, eight homers, .255 BABIP, a 7.9% walk rate, and a 15.7% strikeout rate. However, Schmitt was atrocious in the first month of the season so if we remove that out of the equation, he has a .292/.362/.454 triple-slash line with 13 doubles, a triple, five homers, .331 BABIP, a 7.7% walk rate, and a 16% strikeout rate. You saw that even if we removed the his atrocious May, his peripherals (walk rate and strikeout rate) are still very consistent.
Now, let's dig a little bit deeper into the numbers. I particularly follow a rule of thumb for hitting prospects: if you can hit flyballs at a high rate while having a strong walk rate and a low swinging strike rate, you are in good shape. It has been known entering the 2021 season that the Giants coaches want Schmitt to hit more fly balls with the hopes of hitting more home runs because he has the raw power to do damage with his bat. As a result, Schmitt added a bit of loft to his swing path.
It's time to dig in. Out of all Giants prospects age 25 and under with more than 100 at-bats last season, Schmitt has the third-highest flyball rate of 50.7% while having the fourth-lowest swinging strike rate at 9.1% (per FanGraphs).
FYI, swinging strike rate is how many times does a hitter swing and miss per number of pitches thrown while whiff rate is how many times does a batter swing and miss per number of swings. If a pitcher throws 100 pitches, a batter swings at 50 of those pitches but missed on 25 of those pitches. The batter has a 25% swinging strike rate and a 50% whiff rate.
Casey Schmitt has a better flyball rate than known power mashers Alex Canario, Sean Roby, Marcio Luciano, and Jairo Pomares while having a lower swinging strike rate than known contact hitters Luis Matos, Diego Rincones, and Brett Auerbach. It's at this point that we have to adore Schmitt's ability to make contact with the baseball. He's only entering his first year of him exclusively hitting and to have the ability to swing and miss less than Luis Matos while implementing a steeper swing path and incentivizing him to hit more flyballs is an impressive feat. Add to the fact that he's kept his walk rate to being respectable is another feat of its own.
So I can understand that you are not a fan of Schmitt based on the surface-level numbers but we have seen that Schmitt's underlying numbers told us that there's still room for potential heading to the 2022 season. Where is that potential, you may ask? Well, let's look no further than the swing itself. It has been known since his times as a college prospect that Schmitt does not incorporate his legs in his swing very well and he's carried that in the 2021 season where he's more of sliding in the batter's box instead of having that strong, sturdy foundation where he can effectively load and transfer energy from his built frame to the point of contact. Fix that lower half issue and we may unlock Schmitt's offensive potential.
Oh boy. Based on the video comparison above, you can see that Schmitt incorporates his legs to his swing better this season with the Eugene Emeralds where he is more crouched and squatty compared to his days as a San Jose Giant where he was still taller with his legs during his leg kick. His bat path that looked like something out of a Ferris wheel has looked more direct towards the ball as a result of his lower overall set-up. And the results so far has been magnificent.
Through the first six games, Schmitt has posted a .389/.476/.611 triple slash line with a double, a home run, .400 BABIP, a 14.3% walk rate, and a 9.5% strikeout rate. Those underlying stats mentioned earlier? He has a better flyball rate (50%) than known power mashers David Villar, Sean Roby, Jairo Pomares, and Marco Luciano (ninth-highest overall in the system among prospects age 25 or under) while having a better swinging strike rate (6.8%) than known contact hitters Adrian Sugastey, Luis Matos, and Brett Auerbach (third-lowest in the system).
It is just a matter of time and a crucial adjustment for Schmitt to unlock his offensive potential. As a result, we might be seeing a Casey Schmitt breakout in 2022. It is his second full season of exclusively playing as a position player and we are seeing a massive jump for him. It's like when the Giants are in Year Two of the Gabe Kapler era where they were an almost playoff team in their first year in 2020 to a team with the highest winning percentage in all of baseball in the second year of Kapler's tenure as the captain of the ship. There will definitely be regression incoming for Schmitt as we know that a .400 BABIP is highly unsustainable but as long as his underlying numbers will stay the same, Schmitt will definitely produce. Couple that with his top-of-the-line defense? We might have ourselves a pretty, pretty good prospect here and one that could potentially be not just be a platoon player in the big leagues but an everyday third baseman, potentially better.
I might have been one of the first on the Schmitt bandwagon but I will not definitely be the last one as I gladly welcome you all to the Casey Schmitt bandwagon.
Disclaimer: Stats are all accurate as of April 16, 2022.