KODAK, TN — The Chicago Cubs’ right-handed pitching prospect took on the Montgomery Biscuits on Monday, July 9 in front of a nearly overflowing crowd at Smokies Stadium. When it was all said and done, Swarmer pitched arguably his most dominating performance of the season, notching his first career Double-A victory.
That’s it for Matt Swarmer. Very impressive performance.— Wayne Cavadi (@UofDWayne) July 10, 2018
6 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 5 K
Very efficient and around the zone all night. Landed 54 of 76 pitches for strikes.
FB 92 CB: 82-84 CH: 85-87#Cubs @DEvanAltman @MinorLeagueBall pic.twitter.com/4f4pnbhsKH
Swarmer is listed and 6-foot-5, 175 pounds on the Smokies roster and it seems about right. Very tall and lanky, Swarmer uses his whole body in his delivery. He was selected in the 19th Round of the 2016 MLB Draft out of DII Kutztown. There, he compiled 224 strikeouts in 171 innings, posting a 3.11 career ERA in his four-year tenure, but it wasn’t his numbers he was drafted for, but that attractive, projectable frame.
After his half-season debut in Rookie ball in 2016, Swarmer played in four levels last season, impressing in his lone Triple-A spot start for Iowa going seven shutout innings. This season, he started back in the Carolina League and looked strong before struggling a bit in his five starts in Double-A after a promotion.
There are a lot of moving parts for the righty. He starts on the first base side, staring down the batter over his glove. His arms form an L as he sets, his right pitching elbow up, his glove arm down. He has a very defined, high leg kick that moves within itself, and a strong follow through on his back leg. It seems like there is a some effort, a whip, in his arm, but he gets the job done.
Swarmer, now 24-years-old, has a three-pitch arsenal. His fastball was 92-93 for all six of his innings pitched Monday night, only reaching 94 as his top velocity. He was very fastball heavy, but his secondary offerings seemed like they can develop into nice secondary pitches. His breaking ball was mostly 82 with a nice drop that can get some chase and his change, which was rarely used, was clocked around 87 and had a bit of a fade. He was able to fool hitters with both pitches, inducing quite a few check swings for strikes.
Swarmer was on fire from the first inning. It is important to note that he was pitching in front of the largest Smokies’ crowd of the season with Kris Bryant in town rehabbing. Swarmer was unfazed, which is always a huge takeaway for a pitcher on the rise.
He was highly efficient early on, despite not landing a first-pitch strike in the first inning. Still he threw an 11-pitch inning, landing eight for strikes. He induced a check swing on a change and got a chasing swing-and-miss strike on a curve in an impressive punch out of Jake Cronenworth, freezing him for the backwards K.
Swarmer was perfect through 4.2 innings until a weakly hit grounder to the third baseman Kris Bryant resulted in an infield single. Right-fielder Eddie Martinez had a busy day in right, as Swarmer does allow his fair share of fly balls, getting five outs through the air versus six on the ground. That seems consistent with his career, as he has always had a higher fly ball rate, but the contact wasn’t hard at all.
He maintained his velocity throughout the game, striking out two batters in his final frame. He landed 54 of his 76 pitches for strikes, and his misses were close, his first and only 3-0 count came to the nine-hole hitter in the third inning. Swarmer responded by settling in and striking out Thomas Milone, the first of three strikeouts on the night for the Biscuits’ centerfielder.
Swarmer’s finals line tells an accurate tale. He went six strong, allowing just two hits, no walks or runs, and striking out five. Very impressive indeed.
Swarmer’s delivery leaves a bit to be desired, but he repeats it and makes it work. If this performance was true to his abilities, he can profile as a back of the rotation arm, able to throw some innings and keep the Cubs in games while saving the bullpen, the true role of a fifth-starter. Having some three-inning performances this season, like his previous start, Swarmer can also fill the role of a long-man, able to jump in the rotation in a pinch a la Mike Montgomery on the current roster. I wouldn’t expect to see Swarmer this season, but if he can find consistency, he should see the big leagues, at least for a trial run, next season.