Cutters notebook: Scheiner gets shot to make baseball his job

Jake Scheiner never really had an interest in psychology. But he had to pick something as a major when he arrived at the University of Houston last year, so psychology it was.

Truth be told, baseball has always been Scheiner’s major. It’s what he’s always wanted to be his job.

Now, as a fourth-round pick of the Philadelphia Phillies in this month’s draft, Scheiner is getting the opportunity to make baseball his job. The Houston product made his Bowman Field debut Wednesday night as the Williamsport Crosscutters began a three-game series with the Batavia Muckdogs.

Prior to the game, Scheiner was hoping Wednesday would be the night he finally got to swing the bat a little bit. He carried a .400 on-base percentage in two appearances since being drafted into the game. But all four of his times on base have been either by walk, or from getting hit by a pitch.

“I wanted to swing the bat a little more,” Scheiner said following batting practice Wednesday. “I wanted to see some more pitches, but I’ll take getting hit and getting on base. I’ve got a good on-base percentage, but I’m looking to swing the bat a little more.”

Scheiner’s calling card has always been his offense. He came to Houston after a stint at Santa Rosa Junior College where he hit over .400 with eight home runs. But he took off even more after he transferred.

Scheiner hit a career best 18 home runs this spring for the Cougars as they won the American Conference and earned a top seed for the NCAA regionals. He slashed .346/.432/.667 leading the league with 64 RBIs in 63 games as he was the conference’s Player of the Year. He became Houston’s first consensus All-American since Brad Lincoln in 2006.

All of that led to June when Scheiner was selected in the fourth round by the Phillies, giving him the chance to make baseball his job. He was one of seven Phillies 2017 draft picks added to the Crosscutters’ roster during their weekend road trip to Auburn.

“I didn’t want to do psychology. I always thought if baseball could be my job, I was going to work my tail off to become a baseball player,” Scheiner said. “It’s what I wanted to do. I had no business being in psychology, but I’m hoping to be here for a while and continue to progress and keep improving as a player.”

Part of improving as a player has Scheiner learning how to play second base. He’s always been a natural infielder, growing up as a shortstop. He moved to third base in college, but draft reports said he may have to eventually move to second base.

For Scheiner, even moving halfway across the diamond isn’t that difficult a move. It’s all about learning the footwork around second base in trying to turn double plays. During batting practice Wednesday, he was working with shortstops Raul Rivas and Nick Maton on trying to turn those double plays.

Scheiner played third base in his debut with the Cutters in Auburn, but his last two appearances in the lineup have been as a designated hitter.

“I’m just looking for anywhere I can see the field,” Scheiner said. “I’m looking forward to getting better at both second and third. There’s a lot more to second base for double plays as well as cuts and relays. There’s a lot more positioning that you need to get used to. I just need to get the footwork down at second. I’m getting better and looking forward to playing there.”

But offense is likely always going to be what helps him progress through the Phillies’ farm system. His takeoff in home runs this spring added another dimension to his game that had never been quite that prevalent.

The Phillies’ Johnny Almaraz, the Director of Amateur Scouting, said after being drafted he felt Scheiner had the chance to hit for both power and average. Scheiner spent much of the spring near the top of the country’s leaderboard in home runs. He finished tied for 21st with his 18 home runs, the second-most in school history.

“I feel like I should have had more, though,” Scheiner said. “I was a little upset with myself. I set a goal early in the year for 12. I thought it’d be a good, comfortable number. Once I surpassed that early in the season, I was looking for 20. But I hit the wall too many times. But I should have had some more.”

Scheiner attributed the better home run total to both being stronger and being a better hitter. Over his three years in college — two at Santa Rosa JC and one at Houston — he’s matured as a hitter. He’s been able to identify where he should attack pitches in his zone, and where he should lay off pitches.

That process has seen his home run total slowly tick upward before spiking this spring. Now he’s another capable bat in the middle of the Crosscutters’ lineup which can change the complexion of a game with one swing.

“I’m very aggressive and I love to swing the bat and hit balls hard,” Scheiner said. “I do look for specific pitches early and in plus counts. I look for pitches I can drive.”