Continuing our updates on some of the pitching prospects who pitched for the Gulf Coast Nationals in 2012, we spotlight right-hander Blake Schwartz.
The 6-foot-3, 200-lb., right-hander from Oklahoma City started five games for the GCL Nats before moving to Single-A Hagerstown and getting seven starts with the Suns.
Schwartz went 0-2 with a 5.06 ERA for the GCL Nats. In 16 innings, Schwartz struck out 12 batters and allowed one walk. Tripp Keister,the new skipper in Hagerstown, had Schwartz at the beginning of his career while managing the Gulf Coast Nationals last season.
Although Schwartz only had 54 innings at the pro level, there was a reason for that. He already had pitched a college season for Oklahoma City University. Schwartz went 11-4 with a 3.74 ERA in 17 starts at the collegiate level, a span of 98 2/3 innings. He led the team with 113 strikeouts.
"Schwartz is an interesting kid," Keister said. "He pitches with a lot of poise. Every outing, he got better. He came from college. There was a time where he reached that period where he was throwing a lot more in pro baseball than he did in college, so he didn't have that life on his fastball. He pitched with his other pitches."
Schwartz is another example of a pitcher who went from his college season right into pro ball. After getting acclimated to the grind of throwing more, he got into a nice tempo.
"In Hagerstown, he got stronger with his fastball velocity and his command was better," Keister said. "That firmed up his breaking ball more, getting his arm strength back. He skipped Auburn and started a playoff game in Hagerstown. Really a hungry kid and looking to get better every day. I like that about him, his make-up was very good. He did a nice job."
I would forecast Schwartz starting in Hagerstown to get a full season in and see how his arm reacts. He provides good depth in the starting rotation for the Nationals at the Single-A level.