Stephen Piscotty a natural hitter

Scouts love the ease with which Stephen Piscotty is able to put the barrel on the ball. Larry Goren/Four Seam Images/AP Photos

If you were to pen a preliminary draft of the "All-American Stanford Story," it would begin something like this:

The central character grew up within driving distance of Palo Alto, Calif. As a young child, his uncle -- a man with a Cardinal history -- took him to Sunken Diamond for his birthday. He sat across from the Stanford dugout so he could peer into it, studying the players. He was mesmerized by baseball's sounds. His five-year-old mind couldn't quite analyze the complexities of the game, but his heart could feel its pulse. He loved the aura of it all. He remembers now how the players ran on and off the field. He remembers wanting to be like them. He remembers believing, even then, it was attainable.

He became one of the best high school baseball players in his state. Elite college programs knocked. For Christmas, his uncle wrapped a Stanford sweatshirt. His uncle's wife, a Cal Bear, wrapped a blue sweater. He knew which color he preferred. The summer before his senior year in high school, he was in Cooperstown, N.Y. with his family. Alone, he took the rental car out to a deserted dirt road. Lost in trees and a slow afternoon's silence, he called his future coach. "I'm coming to Stanford," he said.

As a freshman, he hit .326 with more extra-base hits (21) than strikeouts (18). Sophomore year brought a .364 average, a .423 OBP and first team All-Pac 12 honors. Now his junior year, his draft year, has been more of the same -- .319 average, .405 OBP, 5 homers, 27 walks, 21 strikeouts. Since his career began at Stanford, 167 starting lineup cards have been exchanged at home plate. Every one included his name.

That's the golden child chapter of Stephen Piscotty's story. Without knowing better, it's a career that's been wrapped up and rocked in a warm bath towel, unthreatened. Of course, that implies something of a coddled journey, and Piscotty would object to that. This has been earned. Calculated, even.

Like many Stanford students, Piscotty is an engineering major, but he didn't come to Stanford to be one. He stumbled into his intellectual niche with an atmosphere and energy emphasis.

"It's all about renewable energy and green technology," Piscotty says. "I found myself really excited to go to class."

It makes sense. Listen to Piscotty speak, and you can almost hear his mind's propeller twirling. He processes questions and returns crisp words without any dead space. He'd seem a bit robotic if his dry humor wasn't so quick. Piscotty's mechanical mind has unquestionably guided his career, but he makes a point to stifle the engineer when he plays, shedding layers of academia and leaving a ballplayer. "There's a time when you just can't think," he says.

It's a rare ability that made him the perfect candidate for an experiment. Towards the end of last season, Brock Ungricht, Stanford's hitting coach, approached Piscotty.

"I have an adjustment that will make you a .400 hitter," he said.

It was small -- quieting the right-handed hitter at the plate and loading his bat more efficiently -- but Ungricht wanted him to try it. And he wanted Piscotty to write about it.

Ungricht told Piscotty to keep a journal and chronicle his batting practice sessions and game at-bats.
It's a practice Ungricht -- a 30th-round pick by the Yankees in 2006 out of San Diego State -- picked up from Tony Gwynn when he played for him at SDSU. Piscotty committed to it in the Cape Cod League last summer, keeping his notes in a Microsoft Word document on his laptop. It's about three pages long, and Piscotty chuckles at how negative the file reads.

"Funny thing is, when you're going good, you're not thinking," Piscotty says. "It's hard to pick out what you're doing right."

The file has slept in the dark of his hard drive, unawakened, for more than a month now.

When Piscotty is at his best, he's a conveyor belt of hits, one repeatable swing after another. This is his blessing, as he loads simply and so effortlessly flicks his wrists, the aluminum barrel blistering cowhide and lace.

"His pure ability to square up a baseball is very impressive," says an NL evaluator. "He might be one of the best just pure hitters in the draft. You can't take that away from him."

In a way, it's also his curse. A line-drive swing produces the consistent hard contact, but it also stunts Piscotty's power. And for a man who will build his career at a corner position -- likely third base or left field -- sagging power suffocates his big league profile.

"For me, there's not a lot of impact because his position is all about home runs," the evaluator said. "So if you take him, you just have to understand you need power elsewhere. There are plenty of teams that can do that. If we had Robinson Cano, I'd take Piscotty in a second and wouldn't care."

Some team will take Piscotty -- who Keith Law has ranked as the No. 15 prospect in the class -- and it will likely be in the first round. He's viewed as a low-risk pick and has some projection left in his 6-foot-3, 215-pound frame. The draft is a game of odds, where riverboat gamblers can leave with green palms or empty ones, and not all teams unflinchingly chase the high-reward player.

"He's a solid player who'll add value to a big league club, and you feel good about that," a NL area scout said. "And in his best years I could see 20-25 homers, and then you have an All Star."

There seems to be little concern whether Piscotty will adjust to the mental rigors of pro ball or the superior arms he'll face at higher minor-league levels. Scouts rave about his makeup. Ungricht bets on Piscotty's aptitude.

"(Gwynn) would say guys who make pitch-to-pitch adjustments are in the big leagues," Ungricht said. "He does that. He's got it."

Piscotty will spend the last days before the draft concluding his Stanford story. The Cardinal are in the postseason, and Piscotty admits his collegiate career is coming to an end. There won't be a Senior Day.

So now he says he stops to take little moments to himself at Sunken Diamond. His tone turns nostalgic as he admits to occasional daydreams.

"I look up in the stands more now and think about my times," he says.

Piscotty sees little leaguers watching him run on the field. He thinks about where he's been. He thinks about where he's going.

Teddy Mitrosilis is an editor for ESPN Insider. He played college baseball at Long Beach (Calif.) CC and The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he graduated with a degree in journalism. You can follow him on Twitter here.