Written by: Joe Drake (@JDrake349)
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Hey P365 friends, long time no see! It’s uh, it’s been a while, huh? I’m not sure if anyone remembers, but back in the spring, we announced that I was going to dive headfirst into scouting and take everyone along for the ride with me as I chronicled my journey. Well, after the pandemic turned most of our lives upside down, things shifted a bit. I’m planning a wedding, helping my fiancee navigate PA school, and trying to make good on all my previous commitments and things here ended up getting pushed back a bit. My apologies for that, but it should pick up from here.
Before we dive into the writeup, here’s a quick refresher on what exactly I’ll be doing. I’m going to scout players in person and through video and give you an inside at my thought process. I’m going to give my best crack at current value/future value grades, but I expect them to be pretty rough early on. This is my first ever scouting report, so bear with me as I cut my teeth. I’m opening myself up here to be quite vulnerable because I want this process to feel accessible for everyone. I want this to be a journey that anyone can follow and see how I (hopefully) improve throughout the process and use it as a guide for how they can do the same.
In a typical summer, I could have made the trek to the Cape (Cape Cod, MA) and caught a few live games of Jud Fabian and taken video first hand. In 2020, that’s not possible. Rather than sitting on my hands, I’ve pored over just about every video of Fabian that I could find on YouTube. My report below is based on what I’ve seen in those videos, his stat lines and notes from others who have seen him live previously. We’ve got to make the best of what we’ve got — control what you can control and accept the rest.
Without further ado, I bring you my thoughts on Jud Fabian.
Okay, first thing’s first: this has to be the weirdest thing about scouting, right? Watching a bunch of kids run around in spandex and baseball pants and evaluating their butts and shoulders? Welcome to scouting, folks. The thing is, it’s a critical part of the evaluation. There is a massive difference in potential between someone built like me (5’7”, 215lbs) and someone like Cody Bellinger, who was 6’4” and 180lbs when he was drafted. Bellinger’s frame is projectable, meaning you can envision him growing into his body and adding lean mass and strength (he’s currently 6’4”, 203) whereas, with someone built like me, you’re just praying they find the salad bar a little more often. The body has already filled out; there’s not any room for them to add additional strength.
Looking at Jud Fabian, you see the athleticism right away. FanGraphs has him listed at 6’1” and 180lbs. His legs are muscular, but not necessarily big, and his build reminds of Jarred Kelenic — well proportioned and athletic. You could line him up at wide receiver or point guard and no one would bat an eye. There’s room to grow, but probably no more than 20 pounds or so, you’d imagine.
Undoubtedly, this is the tool that I’ve seen the least from Fabian. When people take a video of players at a game, it’s almost entirely of their hitting and pitching with a couple of sprints thrown in and a smattering of throws.
What am I looking for? Fabian’s an outfielder, so we’re looking for his ability to read the ball off the bat, what kind of jump he gets, his routes to the ball, the amount of ground he can cover, and the overall feel of his actions. Is he graceful? Or does it look like he’s always tripping over his own feet?
When it comes to evaluating Fabian’s defense, I’ve tried to get a feel for his actions based on a handful of showcase videos while relying more heavily than I’d like to on others who have seen him. From the limited action I’ve seen, he has the smooth movements you’d expect from a good athlete and— combined with his speed—I would guess that he at least has a shot to stick in center field. Based on what I’ve gathered from others, he appears to read the ball well off the bat and has good range (as expected). Altogether, it feels like a package that can play center but could easily be pushed to a corner if he lands in an organization with a good defender already manning the position in the big leagues.
This was another difficult tool to pick up through video alone for the same reasons listed above. There are only a few shots of him throwing in pregame warmups at UF or in a showcase from a few years ago. In pregame, it’s hard to tell how much effort he’s putting into the throw, so it’s possible there’s an extra tick or two in the tank, but I’m not sure it would change the grade. Most throws were on a line and on target but didn’t have great velocity. It’s not the arm you want in right field, but I think it’s serviceable if he had to slide there as a professional.
Finally, something I can feel comfortable judging. Now, that doesn’t mean I got to see a hundred reps, but I did get two very clear shots of him running hard home to first. To be honest, this is the first time I’ve actually gotten to put my new Accusplit (stopwatch) to use. Given my newness, it’s reasonable to expect that my times are going to be a bit off — there certainly isn’t someone sitting over my shoulder telling me I started the watch too late, etc. I got a 4.15 run time on the first and a 4.31 on the second.
Based on the chart in the book Future Value by Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel (which I highly recommend!), these times would land at a 65 and 50, respectively, on the 20-80 scale. That’s a decent disparity, but on the second run, he eased off the pedal the last step or two when the first baseman came off the bag. So, I’m going to give more weight to the first run. Based on everything else I’ve seen and read, it simply doesn’t feel like Fabian is more than a plus runner, so it’s more likely that this time was affected by my stopwatch skills. If we dial it back closer to a 4.20, that matches up with a plus grade (60) for a right-handed hitter. I’ll guess that in his prime he loses a step or two with added weight and looks closer to an average/above-average runner.
This is where you fall in love with Jud Fabian. Even with the limited amount of at-bats, his advanced approach at the plate shines through like a beacon through the night fog. The outfielder comes to the plate knowing what he wants to hit and comfortably watches just about everything else until he gets two strikes. It’s clear that he likes to attack anything middle-in and does so with the intention to drive it. He has little interest in anything away unless it’s necessary to keep the AB alive. This is a profile that will help him avoid weak contact, work walks, and hit for power. Ted Williams’ number one rule for hitting is that you need a good pitch to hit, and Fabian seems to have taken that to heart.
Statistically, you can see his discipline in action with his 12% walk rate between NCAA and Summer League action. In 2020, he had posted a 13:18 walk to strikeout ratio before the season was cut short, which is impressive. The downside to being such a patient hitter is that he’ll see a lot of two-strike counts which will make him prone to strikeouts, but more on that in a bit.
It’s hard not to like Fabian’s swing. It’s simple and sweet and he’s pretty direct to the ball despite having a natural loft. He sets up tall with a slight knee bend, ever so slightly open to the pitcher with a gentle rock in the hands. His coil is moderate and features a mid-thigh leg kick to help generate power. When he strides into his launch position, his hands slide back but remain close to the body and his hips start to open to create good hip/shoulder separation. When he uncoils, he gets good bat speed despite the swing appearing low effort. It all comes together to generate frequent hard contact.
That’s not to say his swing is without holes. He does have some swing and miss – a little more than I would have guessed – and I noticed whiffs on high fastballs in the limited sample I saw. I think this could limit the ceiling on his hit tool and make it closer to above-average instead of plus when all is said and done.
Raw 55, Game 55
Power is another category where I had to rely more on numbers and reports than video, unfortunately. When people take BP videos, they show you the swing, but never where the ball lands. What I’ve done here is to try and extrapolate based on the little video I’ve seen, the bat speed, and the numbers he put up in season. I think that a 55 raw grade is reasonable based on his current bat speed and the projectable-ness of his body. I see him adding some strength, but nothing game-changing. In-game, I think he’s going to get to every bit of that power given his approach and the loft in his stroke. You can tell that he hunts for pitches he can punish and when he swings, he does so with the intention of doing damage.
His freshman year at UF was nothing to write home about but it should be noted that he enrolled early and in turn is younger than his classmates. Jud started to find his stride when he got to the Cape last summer (2019). He smoked 6 homers with a .210 ISO in 124 ABs and followed up it with a hot start in 2020 — 5 HRs, .306 ISO in 68 ABs before the season was shut down. Yes, the sample is small, but he nearly beat his 2019 HR output less than half the at-bats, which is very encouraging. Clearly, there’s some pop in his bat.
Overall Role: 50
The total package feels like an average real-life regular. A lot hinges on his ability to stick in center field, which would help his bat play up a lot. Unfortunately, I think most orgs will have better defenders who could force him to a corner as he nears or arrives at the big league level. He’s a bit of a tweener where the athleticism might not be good enough for center but the bat doesn’t look nearly as good in a corner. It feels like a profile that could have more value in a spacious outfield like Coors where a more athletic corner OF is more valuable. Offensively, you don’t have to squint to see his approach pushing him to the top of the order as long as the strikeouts stay in check. If the hit tool struggles in the pros, he’s probably more of a 6-7 hole hitter.
The Fantasy Package
Okay, it’s nerd time. What? I’m a fantasy nerd too, don’t worry. Fantasy wise, Fabian is an intriguing hitter — especially in leagues that sub OBP for AVG. At his peak, I think his slash line would be along the lines of .265/.365/.495 with 25-30 HRs and 5-10 steals. I think in a typical year he’s probably closer to a .255 hitter (albeit with an appetizing OBP) with 20-25 homers. I think he’s going to be a valuable member of a fantasy squad but probably not a headliner.
Follow P365 Prospect Analyst Joe Drake on Twitter! @JDrake349
Follow us on Twitter! @Prospects365
Featured image courtesy of the Florida Gators