The Boston Red Sox were mostly quiet during the Rule 5 Draft, but they made some noise near the end of the affair. Boston added two players to the minor league roster, one of whom was pitcher Andrew Schwaab.
Red Sox Prospects: Andrew Schwaab
Andrew Schwaab originally debuted as a member of the New York Yankees system back in 2015. An undrafted free agent, Schwaab pitched well during limited opportunities in rookie ball. The righty made a name for himself in 2015, tossing 23.1 innings of relief to the tune of a 1.16 ERA and a 1.61 FIP. He posted an excellent 12.34 K/9 and a 1.93 BB/9.
Schwaab continued his unexpected success from rookie ball, making it all the way to AA Trenton Thunder by the end of the 2017 season. Schwaab performed well in Trenton and finished 2017 with a career 2.74 ERA and a 2.89 FIP. These are solid numbers for a relief prospect and suggested that the former undrafted free agent might have an MLB future after all. However,
Spending time in High-A and AA, Schwaab pitched 52 innings to the tune of an ugly 5.37 ERA and an unimpressive 3.81 FIP. His 9.17 K/9 was still good, but his BB/9 ballooned to an objectively horrible 5.37. This performance was discouraging, to say the least, as Schwaab spent the entirety of 2018 pitching like what you’d expected out of an undrafted free agent.
Schwaab’s Pitch Tool
One of the main reasons Schwaab went undrafted, to begin with, was because of his questionable command. However, the young righty countered that problem by completely reinventing his pitching motion. Schwaab utilizes an exaggerated side-arm delivery, driving his back foot into the ground at the moment of release. According to Schwaab, doing this helps his command and overall control.
Throughout the first three years of his career, Schwaab primarily utilized his fastball and sinker. As a reliever, he was able to get away with just having the two offerings. However, in 2018 Schwaab worked on developing his changeup and slider. As evidenced by his career-worst season, this adjustment didn’t go well. Schwaab couldn’t consistently command his secondary offerings, leading to his ballooned walk rate. Additionally, his pitches didn’t really do anything, so batters teed off against Schwaab and drove up his ERA.
Additionally, his extra focus on these secondary pitches cost him command of his fastball. While it’s great for a pitcher to throw multiple pitches, some guys simply aren’t meant to throw more than two offerings. Right now, Schwaab looks to be one of those guys.
The Boston Red Sox claimed Andrew Schwaab hoping to get the guy from 2015 to 2017. While he doesn’t have the most explosive stuff by any means, the righty put up strong numbers throughout his first three years in the minors. If Schwaab can find that form, then he certainly has an MLB future.
However, if the 2018 version of Schwaab sticks around, then he won’t be in the majors any time soon. He’s not good enough to win on stuff alone, so he’ll need to get his command back in line.
The best way to do this is by going back to using his fastball and sinker. Those two pitches are clearly his best offerings, and he should put all his focus into making those pitches as good as they can be. As a pure-relief prospect, Schwaab can get away with only having two major league caliber pitches.
Schwaab will likely start the 2019 season with either the AA Portland Sea Dogs or the High-A Salem Red Sox. If 2018 proves to be an outlier season, then Schwaab could make it to the AAA Pawtucket Red Sox by the end of the season.
It’s hard to envision any scenario where Schwaab makes it to the majors in 2019. However, with another solid season, Schwaab could compete for a bullpen role in Spring Training of 2020.