Mets Minor League Update: Buffalo Bisons Starting Pitcher Chris Schwinden
NOTE: this is a post by another new contributor to MetsToday, Josh Burton. You may remember Josh filled in for me a few weeks back while I was traveling. — Joe
If the Mets and their new administration want to succeed in the the future, they will have to build the team through the draft and consequently, the minor leagues. In each post, I will highlight one up-and-coming player in the Mets farm system at each level that might have a part in the rebuilding of our beloved Amazin’s.
Chris Schwinden, starting pitcher for the Mets’ Triple-A affiliate Buffalo Bisons, has definitely not reached AAA the conventional way. Schwinden was drafted in the 43rd round of the 2004 MLB Draft but did not sign, opting instead for Fresno Pacific University. He was then drafted by the Mets in the 22nd round of the 2008 draft. Any time a player is drafted that late, it is unlikely that they are signed and thus advance through a team’s minor league system — much less reach MLB. Of course, there are exceptions — including one currently on the Mets roster in Dillon Gee, who was picked in the 21st round of the 2007 MLB draft and has advanced all the way to the big league club (and is arguably the team’s best healthy starter right now).
Although he has been in a mini-slump lately in the International League, Schwinden looks like the next Mets pitcher to break the aforementioned rule. On the season, Chris has compiled a record of 3-3 with an era of 3.20. The record may not look very promising but considering the Bisons’ poor 26-34 record on the year, it is very respectable. In addition, Schwinden doesn’t allow many base runners — witnessed by his 1.08 WHIP on the season. (For those of you who don’t know, WHIP is a stat that counts the amount of walks and hits a pitcher averages each inning. It is calculated simply by dividing the total amount of walks and hits the pitcher has allowed in one season by the amount of innings the pitched in the same season. Generally speaking, a really good WHIP is anything below 1.10 and Schwinden’s falls into that category).
Just like his fellow late-round draftee Dillon Gee, Schwinden is not an exciting pitcher nor has he lights-out stuff. He is able to succeed solely on his pitching smarts, control, command, and pitch movement. Schwinden’s repertoire includes a fastball, slider, curveball, change up — nothing out of the ordinary. His fastball only tops out at 90-92 mph which is not slow, but is not overpowering by any extent of the definition. Chris excels in keeping the ball low in the zone especially with his fastball. This lets him get away with having non-overpowering stuff and yet still manage to strike batters out and induce ground balls.
Schwinden’s best off-speed pitch is his change-up, which can range in speed from 77 to 84 mph. This range helps to keep batters off-balance because one change-up could come in slow and the batter would be too early on it and foul it off. The next change-up might be a little faster and while the batter is trying to slow down his bat to adjust to the pitch, the quicker change-up could blow right by him for another strike. Even with this said, the pitch is much more effective at lower speeds and when used in conjunction with his other off-speed pitches.
Schwinden also has a run-of-the-mill slider and curveball to round out his repertoire. The slider consistently reaches about 84-86 mph and can be effective as an out pitch when he is aggressive in its usage. Schwinden has been cited by his pitching coaches for trying to place his slider too much instead of having confidence in the pitch and just “letting it fly”. His curveball is a standard overhand curve that maxes out at about 78 mph. When Chris can keep his arm at 12 o’clock (straight overhand) while throwing the pitch, it has nasty bite and is a legit strikeout pitch. When he does the “Oliver Perez” (sorry for the bad memories) and drops his arm to more of a three-quarters position, the curveball hangs in the zone and that’s when he gets hit hard.
Truth is that Schwinden might not be the sexiest option for the Mets to call up in the case of a needed spot starter along this year or in the future, but he — like Dillon Gee — will most likely get the job done and be an effective Major League starting pitcher. Even with the bigger-name prospects like Jenrry Mejia and Brad Holt still in the minors and the absurd amount of high school and college pitchers drafted by the Mets this year, Chris Schwinden deserves to be given a shot in the rotation either later this year or in the years to come.