2024 MLBPro #4: After Legendary ‘22, Jeremy Scott Has Ambiguously Solid ‘23

For the Arizona Diamondbacks, 2023 was way too many things. It was

…a failed season

…a season of reclamation

…a step back

…a new era

…a lost opportunity

…a season to remember

…a cavalcade of What Went Right

…a victory of resiliency

…a nightmare

…or a magical year.

Their 2023 can be spun in any direction you want, and it would be difficult to argue against it. They lost Bryce Harper in free agency, then lost Shohei Ohtani to a season-ending injury in Spring Training. Their pitching staff was atrocious for most of the season. Their offense sputtered for long stretches. 

The Diamondbacks, still picking up the pieces from the Ohtani injury, got off to a rough start, sitting at 11-18 on May 1. Then, just as they got over .500 (42-41) entering  July 1st, they went 21-30 over the next two months. As of September 1, they sat at 63-71, 25.5 games behind Colorado in the NL West.

So, the division was a non-starter. The Phillies were holding serve with the top Wild Card spot, at 80-54. That was 1.5 games up on the Dodgers (78-55), and 16.5 up on Arizona. The Dodgers held the second spot, sitting ten games clear of Arizona.

But the third Wild Card? If the season had ended on August 31, Arizona would be tied for the third Wild Card, with the amorphous New York Mets. At 63-71.

“You get to that point,” said Scott, “and you don’t even think about any of that negative stuff. We looked around and thought, why not us?”

With that mindset, the Diamondbacks became the hottest team over the rest of the season, going 23-5 the rest of the way. They finished 86-76, and gained that final Wild Card spot…something very few outside of their clubhouse would have predicted after watching them for half the season.

For everything said about the Diamondbacks, Jeremy Scott’s 2023 was way too many things. It was

…a clear step back

…a clear step forward

…a star exposed

…a star cemented

…a player at a crossroads

…a player in the pantheon

…a question mark

…or, the answer.

If you go by WAR, Jeremy Scott had the greatest season in MLBPro history in 2022. His .329/.409/.604 (186 OPS+), 41 HR, 125 RBI, 24/26 SB season netted him a 10.4 WAR. Amazingly, that was just slightly above Harper’s .315/.431/.631 (200 OPS+), 44 HR, 107 RBI campaign, which brought him a 10.0 WAR.

(To date, they are the only players in MLBPro history to have 10.0 WAR seasons. The highest before them was Armando Cabanas’ 2017, at 9.93. Alonso Martinez, the MLBPro100 #3 player on the list, registered a 9.94 for his 2023 season.)

In many ways, Scott went through what Martinez faces this offseason. He lost his primary lineup protection in Harper. Then, Ohtani went down. The Diamondbacks had so much lineup depth that the third choice, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., was pretty capable in his own right (.302/.388/.502, 28 HR, 119 RBI, 145 OPS+).

Still, there were many questions surrounding Scott entering 2023. How would he do without Harper’s bat to protect him? Sure, he was the reigning MVP; but Scott and Harper was not a Batman & Robin situation. Rather, it was Batman & Superman. What does someone who just posted the greatest season of all time do for an encore?

So, just how does history grade Scott’s effort? I’ll refer you to the list above. His 2023 can seemingly be spun in any direction you wish. It would be difficult to make an argument against it.

– Scott didn’t just take a step back from his 2022 season. He took decided steps back from his 2020 and 2021 seasons. He posted career (full season) lows in virtually every category.

– Scott had a MVP-type season. When Arizona surged in September, it was Scott driving the bus. He hit .297/.387/.626, with eight homers, 22 RBI, and a 176 OPS+ in the month. He posted a 1.6 WAR.

– He has worn down under expectations. This was the first time since his rookie season that he appeared in less than 140 games (okay, it was 139). He recorded a career low in steals (15). His doubles were down, but his strikeout rate was up. His total bases were the lowest of his career to date.

– He rose up above expectations. His walk-rate went up for the second-straight season, despite the losses in the lineup around him.

Scott is headed for a bit of a crossroads himself. He’ll be a free agent after ‘25, when he is 30. Clearly, Arizona sees him as their centerpiece. They let Harper walk away, after all. And they’ll have the money to pay him; Ryan Copeland’s deal comes off the books at the same time.

So, Scott’s future seems to be set. At the same time, it can go any which way. How history interprets his future may depend on the interpreter.

That is, unless Jeremy Scott writes such a narrative, that it leaves no doubt.

2025 MVP100 Projection: This is one I could easily see staying put, or even going up. His ceiling is clearly #1. So, I’ll go out on a limb, and say he’ll stay a Top-5 player by the time this ranking comes around in a year.

Sidebar: Being the #1 overall pick is difficult. That is a first-world problem, sure…but in baseball society, having that distinction has to be a surreal, bizarre experience. 

To the fans of your new organization, you are the Chosen One, the one who will single-handedly turn the downtrodden fates of their team around.

To your new organization, you are also the Chosen One. Or you are The Economical One. Or you are The Fit For The Moment.

Regardless, with the crown comes the weight. And, so far, nobody has worn it as well as Jeremy Scott.

Here’s a quick look at #1 picks in history:

2012: SP Mark Appel (Houston). Appel struggled mightily in three seasons in Houston (29-39, 4.41). He took off after moving to Atlanta prior to the 2017 season, leading the league in wins (17), finishing third in the Cy Young vote. He gained his first All-Star nod in 2019; unfortunately, he tore his rotator cuff in the game, and lost out on what could have been a Cy Young Award. The Braves oddly moved him to Seattle shortly after that. Overall, he went 40-15, 2.89, 1.14 with the Braves. Unfortunately, he suffered a setback in rehab, which cost him all of 2020. With the M’s, he went 28-11, 3.29, 1.07, earning another All-Star nod in ‘21, along with a World Series title. In what has become a recurring theme for Seattle, they could not re-sign him after 2021, and he took a 6/170m deal from the Pirates. He promptly stunk up the joint for Pittsburgh, going 6-15, 5.68, 1.54 in 2023. He is currently on the block.

Career: 97-80 (91-65 pre-PIT), 3.80, 1.24 (109 ERA+); 30.9 WAR; 2x AS, 1 WS

2013: SP Juan Romero (Baltimore). Romero was put in the MLBPro Trade Cycle early, being traded by Baltimore to Atlanta before the 2014 season. After the 2014 season, the Braves traded him to the Dodgers, who promptly rushed him to the bigs in 2015, despite not having thrown any innings above A+ ball to that point. (And that was a 14-7, 4.72, 1.45 year in ‘14.) Romero went 9-15, 3.71, 1.49 in his rookie year as a 22-year-old, leading the league in walks (86). After a 13-13, 4.37, 1.52 in ‘16 (but with a NL Gold Glove), the Dodgers traded him back to Baltimore, who used him as a reliever. He was actually lights out in that role in 17, going 3-3, 1.97, 1.16…that WHIP despite a 4.2 BB/9 rate. Baltimore then tried him as a starter, which was uneven, before making him a reliever again in 2020. He was bad (7-5, 5.16, 1.64), so they sent him to AAA to start for all of ‘21…only to bring him back as a reliever in ‘22. He was serviceable in that role for the last two seasons. He is currently a 31-year-old free agent.

Career: 56-48, 4.21, 1.46 (94 ERA+); 3.5 WAR; 1x GG

2014: OF Ryan Nash (Kansas City). Nash was another #1 pick traded early, being sent to San Diego, along with current SF outfielder Roberto Freitas, for CF Ivan Chavez. That deal was a weird one at the time; Chavez was hitting .231/.271/.412 at the time KC decided to trade for him. (He did go on to win two Gold Gloves in center.) Also odd: Nash had already made his MLB debut by that point, playing 21 games with the Royals in the 2014 season. He hit well enough in his 353 PA between A and AA that the Royals brought him up…only to send him to AA in ‘15, then trade him. He resurfaced with the Padres in 2016 and flourished. He earned a Gold Glove in LF in ‘17, as well as All-Star nods in ‘18 and ‘19, thanks to a solid combination of contact and speed. The Padres sent him to Toronto on 12.10.19; Toronto then signed him to a 4/56m extension. The first half of that deal looked great; however, he was terrible in ‘22 (.238/.323/.299), before rebounding a bit in ‘23.

Career: .283/.368/.379 (109 OPS+), 31 HR, 349 RBI, 213/323 SB; 24.7 WAR; 2x AS, 1x GG; 

2015: SP Brady Aiken (Baltimore). The O’s took another swing at #1, and took another pitcher. They learned their lesson from the mistakes they made with Romero, as Aiken, a HS product, was given time to develop…eventually. They saw his introduction to pro ball, and well…on July 2nd, he struck out 15 against the Fort Myers BoSox. Twelve days later, he no-hit the Fort Myers Twins. He actually pitched in FOUR levels in 2015, before hitting a wall in AA. From there, Baltimore slowed down; he would come up as a 20-year-old in 2017. And he got off to a great start, going 15-5, 3.27, 1.19 in 2018, earning what has been his only All-Star nod. Unfortunately, an injury in September proved difficult to get over; he scuffled considerably in ‘19, going 3-11, 4.89, 1.32, before being traded to Atlanta. He wasn’t any better with the Braves, leading the league in losses in 2020, and underwhelming in 2021. In 2022, he went 8-13, but with a 3.19 ERA, a 1.04 WHIP, and a 120 ERA+. This year, he went 18-6, but with a 4.35 ERA, a 1.18 WHP, and a 94 ERA+. This is why wins aren’t the stat they used to be.

Career: 77-72, 3.75, 1.19 (106 ERA+); 15.1 WAR; 1x AS

2016: SP Ron Tillman (Kansas City). Here are the Royals again, rushing a #1 pick to the top. Tillman was drafted, started seven games in the minors (2-1, 2.89, 1.31), and was teleported right to KC. He appeared in 20 games, starting two, going 2-3, 4.68, 1.44 in the process. He has been generally meh ever since. He went 49-47, 4.55, 1.49 with KC, before being moved to Oakland on 12.18.21. He signed a 4/19.2m extension with Oakland on 1.7.22, then proceeded to post a 9-14, 5.10, 1.44 (83 ERA+) ‘22 season. Oakland released him prior to this season, eating the rest of that deal. He signed a minor league deal with Arizona that lasted 17 days. He is currently with Fresno, the Astros’ AAA affiliate.

Career: 58-61, 4.65, 1.48 (90 ERA+); 13.5 WAR

2017: SS Jeremy Scott (Arizona). Enter, Mr. Scott.

Career: .301/.380/.549 (160 OPS+), 161 HR, 497 RBI, 135/180 SB, 37.5 WAR; 4x AS, 5x SS, 1x MVP

2018: DH/3B Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. (Arizona)

Vlad accelerated quickly, playing at four levels in 2019. He stunted at AAA to end the season, then began the season by scuffling there (.192/.321/.287, 74 OPS+ in 106 PA). So, naturally, Arizona brought him up. And quite naturally, he hit the crap out of the ball: .303/..372/.581 (167 OPS+), 27 HR, 92 RBI. He finished second in the ROY voting, and was named World Series MVP…which is interesting, in that Arizona did not win the World Series. Vlad has been a consistent presence since, averaging .289/.389/.518 (153 OPS+), 31 HR and 114 RBI per 162 games. It would have been a toss-up for second on this list, but Appel’s first season in Pittsburgh makes this one more cut-and-dry.

Career: .304/.387/.537 (158 OPS+); 112 HR, 392 RBI, 22.1 WAR; 3x AS, 3x SS, 1x WS MVP

2019: SS Matthew Lugo (Chi Cubs). Lugo has not made his MLBPro debut yet. The expectation is that he will in 2024.

2020: SP Jason Dumont (Detroit). Dumont progressed through Detroit’s system at a reasonable rate, making his ML debut in 2022. He went 2-1, 2.86, 1.32 (149 ERA+) in four starts (22 IP). He had a rockier ‘23, going 4-5, 5.11, 1.34 (81 ERA+), despite a considerably lower BABIP (.287 in ‘23 vs .339 in ‘22). The culprit was his control; his walks went up 65% per/9 (3.3 vs 2.0).

Career: 6-6, 4.65, 1.34 (90 ERA+), 1.3 WAR

2021: 3B Sawyer Robertson (Detroit). In A- in 2023.

2022: 3B Brenden Hausen (Chi Sox). In Rookie Ball in 2023.

2023: 1B Brock Wilken (NY Yankees). In Rookie Ball in 2023.

Some Vote Notes: The Keepers of the Vote projected Scott at #4. They maintain that the #5 pick is set as well.

  • Scott received two votes at #1.
  • Five players who received votes at #1 remain.
  • The player who received a vote at #1, but not #2 or #3, did resurface at #4.
  • Eight different players received votes at #4.
  • Five players received multiple votes at #4.

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