(Photo Credit: Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports)
It goes without saying that over the course of the season, it’s been both a delight and a privilege to sit down and chat with six of the most successful prospects in the Los Angeles Dodgers‘ organization. Two of the players we interviewed went on to make their big league debuts, two more zipped through three separate levels of the farm, while another earned Texas League Pitcher of the Year honors and is among the featured arms in the playoff rotation for Triple-A Oklahoma City.
Today, to wrap up the regular season portion of our Dodgers Prospect Series, we take a few moments to talk with Tulsa Drillers outfielder Jacob Scavuzzo, who many consider to be one of the best pure athletes in the entire franchise.
Scavuzzo impressively starred in four sports during his time at Villa Park High, as his athletic skills and talents eventually merited him the Orange County Male Athlete of the Year award in 2012. At one point, he was considered a blue chip wide receiver on the gridiron, having logged sub-4.4 times in the 40-yard dash on multiple occasions. On top of all his success in numerous sports, though, Jacob says he knew he was meant to be a baseball player, and it came as no surprise when he was chosen by the Dodgers in the 21st round of the 2012 MLB Draft right out of high school.
“Growing up, I always loved baseball. I played ever since I was 6-years-old in tee ball,” Scavuzzo said. “I played all the other sports because I’m a fierce competitor and I like to win at everything. But deep down I knew I was destined for baseball.”
After the draft at only 18-years of age, Jacob was quickly ushered to the fields of the Arizona League Dodgers to get his feet wet, but began his first full season at Ogden in 2013. While with the Raptors, the 6’4″, right-handed hitting Scavuzzo slashed .307/.350/.578 with 14 home runs, 18 doubles and 42 RBI over 63 games and 266 plate appearances.
Transitioning to Low-A Great Lakes in 2014, he slowly began developing his cunning skills on the basepaths, having stolen 17 bags in 21 attempts. At around the mid-point of his 2015 campaign, he was promoted to High-A Rancho Cucamonga, where he hit .308/.376/.568 with 13 homers and 18 doubles over 62 games. His superior play for the Quakes afforded him the opportunity to participate in the 2015 Arizona Fall League with the Glendale Desert Dogs, where he hit .377/.389/.623 over 72 plate appearances in 16 games.
The highlight of his AFL experience was winning the entire Bowman Hitting Challenge showcase at Talking Stick when he scored a 50-point bunt hit, a 200-point home run and a 300-point home run. He also hit two balls off the 300-point cutout in the infield, a 700-point knockerball in the outfield and a final 800-point blast off the inflatable target in right field to claim the top trophy.
Scavuzzo spent the entirety of 2016 with Double-A Tulsa, seeing action in all three outfield spots, but mostly settling in both of the corners. He hit a very respectable .266/.318/.397 over 116 games in the pitcher-friendly confines of the Texas League, and logged a double-digit HR total for the third consecutive year.
Jacob took a few seconds in our conversation to explain the differences between hitting in Double-A compared to High-A.
“I feel there was definitely a difference between the Cal League and the Texas League for different reasons,” he said. “The talent wasn’t that much better. Pitchers still had the same abilities, but they just executed their plans against each hitter differently and with more precision. Also, the way the ball traveled was very different than the hitter-friendly Cal League.”
With decent power at the plate, a solid arm, capable range in the outfield, along with deceptive quickness on the bases, Scavuzzo still believes his best skill is hitting for average.
“I would say I’m probably known best for my ability to compete every day at the dish. I love to hit and I feel like that’s my best tool,” he said.
As far as one certain area of his game that he could conceivably improve, Scavuzzo stated that he would like to rediscover and sharpen his skills on the basepaths that once served him so well.
“Without a doubt, I feel like I need to improve my baserunning going into next year. I’m known for my speed and I should be stealing more bases, but I’ve been getting away from that aspect of my game and there’s no excuse why I shouldn’t be stealing 20+ per season. So that will definitely be a point of interest going into next year,” he explained.
When asked who his most influential teammates and coaches were over his career on the Dodgers’ farm, Scavuzzo said he had a hard time choosing just one player or coach.
“Being in the Dodgers organization, I have been blessed with many very influential people. I wouldn’t be able to name just one coach or one player who has influenced me the most because they all have helped me throughout my career in different areas,” he stated. “But if I had to choose, I would say that I have learned the most from our player development coordinator, Gabe Kapler. He’s a great leader and has taught me so much on and off the field In so little time. We truly are blessed to have him leading us.”
To close our conversation, Jacob talked about his favorite professional athletes and sports teams outside of baseball.
“My favorite professional athlete right now is Stephen Curry. He has overcome so much adversity in his young career to become one of the most exciting players in the NBA. I admire how humble he his on and off the court,” Scavuzzo said. “My favorite professional team would have to be the Lakers. Kobe Bryant was my favorite player growing up and I pull for them now being a SoCal kid.”
As far as the future is concerned, don’t be surprised if Scavuzzo is promoted to the Triple-A level at some point in 2017, as indicated by his rapid progression to through the system already at such a young age.
In the meantime, he’ll continue to work diligently on everything that’s under his control, like bat speed, leverage, and stealing bases, all the while absorbing every possible tidbit of information from those around him in the Dodgers’ organization.