LAKEWOOD, N.J. — Jake Scheiner had big plans for 2018: Work out all winter, increase his muscle mass and weight, then explode for big power numbers.
Parts A and B didn't work out — a broken wrist last August spoiled that. The Phillies minor leaguer started feeling pain late in his rookie campaign in Williamsport, then couldn't put much stress on it for most of the offseason. He said he was able to hit the gym hard in February and March but didn't get to the thresholds he was hoping for.
No matter. Part C happened anyway.
Through 106 games this summer with single-A Lakewood, Scheiner was batting .292 and slugging .466 (with 11 home runs and 28 doubles) and had an .827 OPS. That puts the 23-year-old righthanded batter, listed at 6-foot-1 and a generous 200 pounds, among the top 10 in the South Atlantic League in every category.
"He's hit leadoff, he's hit second, he's hit third, he's hit fourth, he's hit fifth — he's done it all," manager Marty Malloy said. "Just a mature hitter, a hitter that's been consistent since Day 1. He has a plan, he's sticks to his plan, and obviously, he's had the success to show for it."
Scheiner's path to this point hasn't been easy — he received virtually no college interest coming out of high school in California, having to work his way into a scholarship at the University of Houston before breaking out — but the Phillies' fourth-round selection in 2017 has dramatically improved his batting averages after his mediocre season last summer in the New York-Penn League.
In the field, too, Scheiner has proved to be a late bloomer, and an impressive one. Primarily a third baseman growing up, he played second and third regularly for Williamsport and has started more than 20 games each at first, third and even left field for Lakewood.
"[He] had never played left field. We took him out one day, hit him some fly balls, and the rest is history," Malloy said. "So he's just upped his value."
That defensive flexibility is a trait that Scheiner is hoping will help him rise up the minor-league ranks steadily, even if he can't crack the Phillies' top-30 prospects list quite as quickly. Considering his batting prowess, he certainly has earned some higher-level looks.
"It gives me the opportunity to, in a sense, be multiple players," he said. "You see guys that are stuck that are great at one position, but if you can be good at three or four positions, it gives you a good opportunity."