Of course, scouts look for existing tools, but they also try to determine what, if any tools and skills may improve over time in the team's development program.
When I first saw third-base prospect Kyle Kubitza of the Atlanta Braves, I felt strongly that the primary area scout, the cross-checking scouts and maybe even others in the Braves' organization responded quite favorably to Kubitza's "projectability-predictability."
Scouts saw what I saw in this past Arizona Fall League. Kubitza has raw power, hits left-handed, has good size, and exhibits patience at the plate. And he can run. That's a nice set of skills for a third-base prospect.
In today's game, power is at a premium. If Kubitza can continue to build upon that raw power, the Braves will have made a very wise decision selecting him in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft.
Kubitza attended Colleyville Heritage High School in Texas. He then attended Texas State University in San Marcos where he played third base and hit enough to draw attention of scouts.
In 2010, Kubitza hit .358 with 11 home runs. The following year he hit .310 with 10 homers. It was enough to get his name called by the Braves in the third round of the Draft.
Kubitza is ranked No. 11 on Atlanta's Top 20 Prospect list. He completed parts of three Minor League seasons before appearing for Atlanta on the Scottsdale Scorpions in the Fall League.
In his three Minor League seasons, Kubitza has played in 304 games and has made 1,248 plate appearances. He has a combined batting average of .260. Ironically, that was his average this past full season at Class A Advanced Lynchburg in the Carolina League.
What caught my eye about Kubitza were his 12 home runs, 57 RBIs and 75 runs scored in 2013. Those are solid numbers. Those are statistics that project some power from the left side of the plate.
He also smacked six triples and 28 doubles, additional indications that he has pop in his quick, measured swing.
Kubitza hit .305 this past fall in Arizona. He had a nice season and made himself known by his solid play on both sides of the ball.
Perhaps the statistic in his history that jumps off the page is his walk rate. In his brief career, Kubitza has walked 177 times. Eighty of those came at Lynchburg, 73 the year before at Class A Rome. Yes, he also struck out too much. But that can also be a product of solid patience at the plate. Maybe he took too many pitches. Maybe they were borderline strikes. Whatever the case, the walk and strikeout rates are both elevated.
At 6-foot-3, 190 pounds, Kubitza has good speed. He has stolen bases in his career, but he's also been thrown out trying to steal at a rate that's a bit too high. That will change with a greater understanding of base stealing technique from coaches and other players in the organization. But without a doubt, his speed is among the tools that help project Kubitza as a viable player at a corner infield position where speed is a luxury.
Defensively, Kubitza's greatest asset is his very strong arm. It's probably the best among the Braves' prospect infielders.
Using his quick feet and soft hands, Kubitza has a good feel for his position. He has enough defensive ability to stick at the position.
While I think he can play third base at the Major League level on at least an average basis, Kubitza is versatile enough to play any of the four corners on the diamond. His arm and speed provide the club flexibility.
From what I have seen, Kubitza projects best as a player coming off the bench in a utility role. He can provide some needed pop, steal a base or spell a player defensively at any point of the game at any of four positions.