Prospect of the Day: Chris Schwinden, RHP, New York Mets
Mets prospect Chris Schwinden was unheralded pre-season, but finds himself starting games down the stretch for New York and will have a chance to contribute in 2012.
Schwinden was drafted out of Fresno Pacific University in 2008, as a 22nd round choice, essentially a roster-filler pick for the minor leagues. He performed very well in the New York-Penn League that summer, posting a 2.01 ERA with a 70/12 K/BB in 63 innings, demonstrating sharp control. Command remained his key attribute in 2009 as well: he went 10-6, 3.34 in 127 innings between Low-A Savannah and High-A St. Lucie, with a sharp 92/18 K/BB, although he gave up 138 hits. He returned to St. Lucie for 2010 and was great, with a 1.83 ERA and a 23/5 K/BB in 34 innings.
Promoted to Double-A, he ran into a wall at Binghamton, posting a 5.56 ERA and giving up an unsightly 100 hits in 79 innings. He kept his K/BB ratio solid at 69/19, but going into 2011 he looked like a guy whose stuff was short of major league quality.
Schwinden was undeterred however, and ended up having a fine season this year for Triple-A Buffalo, with a 3.95 ERA and a 134/48 K/BB in 146 innings, allowing 138 hits. He was promoted to the majors for this month and gave up eight hits and five runs in five innings in his first start, though he walked just one and fanned four.
There is nothing special about his velocity, his fastball is just in the 86-90 range. He mixes in a cutter, curveball, and changeup, relying on sharp command of his secondary pitches to succeed. He has little margin for error and needs a strong defense behind him, but there are pitchers with worse stuff who have made careers for themselves due to superior command, and he's shown the ability to make adjustments to higher level competition.
Schwinden really snuck up on us this year, but I don't see him as a total fluke. I think he projects as a fifth starter or long relief type as long as his command remains strong.