One of the most underrated pitchers in the 2020 MLB Draft class is North Carolina State starting pitcher Nick Swiney. Swiney spent the majority of his first two seasons at NC State as a middle reliever but transitioned into a starting role this spring. He’s listed as the 79th-best prospect according to MLB.com’s Prospect Rankings and is projected to be a third-round pick. He expected to move up these lists after a full junior season, but unfortunately for Swiney, his season was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Swiney played high school baseball at William A. Hough High School, where he set school records for wins (24), strikeouts (235), and ERA (1.03). In 2016 and 2017, he was named MECKA Conference pitcher of the year and earned all-state honors from the North Carolina Baseball Coaches Association. He continued his success in Raleigh, posting an astounding 15-1 record, striking out 174 batters in 115.1 innings, and allowing a .191 opponent batting average over three seasons at NC State.
Swiney has earned a reputation for being a strikeout artist. In 2019, he opened many eyes after striking out 95 batters in 56.2 innings. In four starts this year, he continued this dominance, striking out 42 hitters in 28 innings and striking out at least 11 batters in three of his four starts. His most notable outing was against the Purdue Boilermakers, where he struck out 15 batters in eight scoreless innings.
The left-handed hurler accomplishes this high strikeout rate with a three-pitch repertoire that includes a fastball, changeup, and curveball. Scouts consider his fastball to be average in terms of velocity (87-93 mph), but he does an excellent job of painting the corners with this pitch. He then has the capability to finish batters off with his above-average, wipeout curveball and improving changeup. Although his curveball remains his best pitch, his changeup showed drastic improvements this spring. With three capable pitches, Swiney held opponents to a .144 batting average, allowed only five extra-base hits, and gave up just four earned runs in 28.0 innings (1.29 ERA) in 2020.
Swiney is also reliable whenever he takes the mound. He has the potential to work multiple innings out of the bullpen or go deep in games as a starter. As a result, he averaged seven innings per start and pitched at least six innings in all four of his starts in 2020.
One concern that scouts have with Swiney is his lack of consistent control. In his first two seasons at the college level, he recorded a subpar walk rate of five walks per nine innings. Consequently, scouts wonder if he can throw enough “quality strikes and maintain his stuff over a long season.” This lack of command earned him a scouting grade of 45/80 on MLB.com. However, he bounced-back in the abbreviated 2020 season by only allowing six walks in 28 innings (1.9 walks per nine innings.)
One comparison for Swiney is Chicago White Sox starting pitcher and NC State alum Carlos Rodon. Both players are six-foot-three, but Rodon (235 lbs.) outweighs Swiney (187 lbs.) by 48 pounds. Weight aside, their fastballs are similar in movement and speed, and they both throw a dynamic changeup. Just like Swiney, Rodon tended to lose command with his fastball and secondary offerings in college. Although Swiney won’t get drafted as high as Rodon (third overall pick) did in the 2014 Draft, he’s the best pitching prospect from NC State since Rodon toed the rubber in Raleigh.
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