Despite being ranked 79th on MLB.com’s top 200 prospects, NC State left-handed pitcher Nick Swiney was projected as a first-round pick in Keith Law’s first mock draft for the Athletic? Why? Well there’s a few reasons why there will be more than a few teams hoping to secure his services in the upcoming 2020 draft. One of the most impressive stats about Swiney is his near-spotless record on the mound. Between 2+ seasons with the Wolfpack and his final two high school campaigns, Swiney is 32-3. At NC State, he is 15-1 over 50 appearances (8 starts). Despite not featuring what scouts traditionally label as ‘dominant’ stuff, opponents have struggled to hit the southpaw, managing just a .191 average against Swiney over his career. This year, the in-state product has seemingly fixed one of the pressing concerns in his game – his control – while transitioning into a starter for the Wolfpack. His dominant – albeit shortened – junior season has Swiney skyrocketing up draftboards. Heading into the season, Swiney was a projected late fourth round pick, possibly early in the fifth round. Recent predictions have Swiney slotting in as high as the first round, with very few seeing the Wolfpack lefty dropping too far past the second round.
As mentioned above, Swiney transitioned to a starter this year for NC State, and he showed no signs of needing an adjustment period. He fired off 28 stellar innings over four starts, allowing just four earned runs, 13 hits, and six walks. After 49 walks in his first 87 ⅓ career innings, the improved control addressed a major concern in his game, and he didn’t seem to sacrifice his swing-and-miss stuff, striking out 42 batters. Swiney’s biggest improvement in his stuff has been an improved feel for his changeup, giving him the three-pitch combination necessary to be an effective starter. He’s got a solid fastball that plays up to 94 mph, sitting consistently in the low-90s, and he features a curveball that scouts are high on as an above-average offering with high upside. Swiney is absolutely a high-upside play for whoever selects him in the upcoming draft, and he can be developed as the starter, with the comfort of knowing he has two years of collegiate experience in the bullpen.
Prediction: Round 2, Pick 55, Washington Nationals
Only seven teams in the MLB do not have a left-handed pitcher in their top 10 prospects, so it’s a tough need to identify within farm systems. The Nationals have southpaw Matt Cronin as their 10th-best prospect according to Bleacher Report. However, it’s a coveted position to be deep in, and if Swiney remains available this deep into the second round, the Nationals should definitely jump to secure his services. He could develop as a starter, or maybe provide some relief to Washington’s heart attack-inducing (albeit World Series-winning) bullpen. Definitely look for Swiney to be a high-upside pick in the first two or three rounds in a couple of weeks.