Scouting Mets Prospect #48: Chris Schwinden

Schwinden was a big part of the Savannah staff

Chris Schwinden does not have the name recognition of others who filled out the Savannah Sand Gnats rotation this season, but his team would not have achieved its success without him. A steady, reliable right-hander, Schwinden continues to make his case through positive performance even when observers questioned his stuff. Can it continue? Look inside to find out.

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Vital Statistics
Name: Chris Schwinden
DOB: September 22, 1986
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 215
Throws: Right
Bats: Right
Status: 22nd Round (2008) – Fresno Pacific

Chris Schwinden drew attention last summer following a very impressive season with the Brooklyn Cyclones. With the Cyclones, Schwinden provided valuable depth within a rotation that featured higher draft picks and headline grabbing names. Such a description draws comparisons to his work in Savannah in 2009 and was a story repeated this past season for the 22-year-old pitcher.

Though given the ball as the Sand Gnats Opening Day starter, Schwinden's strong season went rather unheralded in comparison to the attention paid his to rotation mates.

But he paid no mind to that. He went out and put together arguably the most consistent performance of any pitcher for the Mets' Low-A affiliate. In 115 1/3 innings pitched, Schwinden posted a 9-6 record with a 3.28 ERA, 88 strikeouts and just 15 walks. It was a matter of a consistency according to the right-hander.

"I just went out there every day and tried to make sure my mechanics were where they should be," he said. "Sometimes the mechanics were off, that happens, but it's about pushing through when I didn't have my best stuff or my best mechanics."

"He throws all four pitches out of the same arm slot. He's very consistent in his delivery," said Sand Gnats pitching coach Marc Valdes. "He doesn't try throwing harder than he can which can throw a guy out of sync. His rhythm and his delivery are very unique to him and it's the same every time."

The consistent mechanics, the solid base of an approach, and excellent command were the ingredients in Schwinden's keeping his monthly ERA at 3.60 or lower throughout the season. He does not possess an overpowering repertoire, he does not pitch his way into trouble and thus never second guesses himself on the mound.

" I don't try to walk guys, obviously, but when I do I tend to get aggravated with myself. All I try to do is try to pound the zone and go after hitters. I don't know if I throw too many strikes, but I think I just go after them and get through at-bats as quickly as possible," Schwinden explained. "I had the mindset that I can each guy out and really tried to go out there with a bulldog mentality and go after hitters.

Schwinden only got stronger as the year went on, leading to a season-high four wins in July. Following four solid performances in August, he was promoted to St. Lucie to conclude the season. He was knocked around a bit in his first start (3 ER in 4 1/3 IP), but showed good resiliency in his finale by tossing seven innings of two-run ball to pick up his first victory in High-A.

"I think getting to St. Lucie was a big personal accomplishment and was a big step for my goals this year," he recalled. "Hopefully I will start out there next year or if I really push myself in the off-season maybe I can get to Double-A, you never know. But I do think it was a big step and it was great experience even for two starts. I really think I needed that after all the hard work I put into the season."


Year

Team

W-L

SV

IP

Hits

BB

K

ERA

2009

St. Lucie

1-0

0

11.1

12

3

4

3.97

2009

Savannah

9-6

0

126.2

126

15

88

3.28

2008

Brooklyn

4-1

0

62.2

53

12

70

2.01



Repertoire: Fastball, Slider, Curveball, Changeup

Fastball: Schwinden's entire game is predicated on his fastball and the command of his fastball. He sits 90-91 MPH with it, hitting 92 MPH at times, and is able to locate it on both corners virtually at will. He generates some natural tail, two-seam movement, which makes it an even more effective pitch particularly on the corners. He uses it in any count, and though his velocity is not particularly high, his command and placement generates the majority of his strikeouts.

Other Pitches: The right-hander's top secondary pitch is his above-average changeup. Thrown in the mid to high-70s, Schwinden generates sink which is made more effective by his excellent arm tempo. He showed the confidence to mix in the changeup in any count, and relies on it in two-strike counts. This season, he made strides with his low-80s slider, his primary breaking ball. In 2008, it had very shallow break which made it just a show pitch, but improved break and confidence with it led to greater inclusion in his sequencing. He rounds out his repertoire with an undeveloped curveball that for now has taken a backseat while he focuses on his slider.

Pitching: Schwinden's game is simple, maintain proper mechanics and hit spots. He does an excellent job of both due to consistent release points with all of his pitches and an easy, repeatable delivery. He works at a very good tempo, trusting himself and his pitches. He aggressively pounds the strike zone not wanting to waste any effort or pitches. He effectively commands the corners and the bottom third of the zone which gives him some of the best command in the system.

Projection: Schwinden's game and approach will keep him a starter as he moves up the system. He does not have the fastball velocity or the power breaking ball to make the transition into a workable late-inning reliever. Additionally, he lacks a plus pitch which figures to bring about hurdles as he moves up the ranks, ultimately pegging him as an organizational pitcher. Schwinden proved many doubters wrong, including us, with a strong sophomore season but needs to grow every step of the way particularly with his slider. He does not have the package of tools to suffer prolonged setbacks at higher levels.

ETA: 2012. Schwinden got a taste of St. Lucie late last season and will likely begin next season back in the Florida State League. How he performs will determine if he gets a late look in Binghamton, but there does not appear to be any scenario in which he gets a big league look without at least two more seasons on the farm.

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