Despite playing for a small conference school, Jordan Schwartz was far from an unknown commodity for scouts going into the 2014 draft. Schwartz came into the 2014 season with a career ERA above 8.00, but he was considered one of the top pitching prospects in the MAAC in 2014.
Schwartz solidified that standing with a standout season for the Niagara University Purple Eagles. That strong campaign culminated with a call from the Oakland A's in the fourth round of the 2014 draft, a call that came a few rounds earlier than he expected.
"I was sitting around the house, hanging out with my family and watching the MLB tracker go by," Schwartz said of his draft-day experience. "Then I got a call from my advisor asking me if I'd take a spot in the fourth round. Obviously, I wasn't expecting to go that high, so I said, ‘of course.'"
Schwartz posted a 3.12 ERA in 14 starts for the Purple Eagles in 2014. He completed five games and led the MAAC with 109 strike-outs in 95.1 innings. He walked 35, allowed only 76 hits and coughed up only two homeruns.
"I don't like it when people beat me in anything. I love to compete and give it my best." - Jordan Schwartz
The reason for Schwartz's improvement in 2014 is easy to pinpoint. A two-way player throughout his collegiate career, Schwartz focused more on pitching than hitting for the first time in 2014.
"I spent more time pitching this year and I feel like that's really helped," Schwartz said. "I've seen a couple of different people about it. Taking the extra time to focus on it has really helped me."
Scouts have always liked Schwartz's arm strength, and he flashed a fastball that sat in the low-90s and touched 96 during the 2014 season. His fastball is his best pitch, but he also has a developing slider and a change-up.
With significant experience playing everyday in the outfield, Schwartz is an excellent athlete. He also brings a competitive nature with him to the mound.
"I don't like it when people beat me in anything," Schwartz said. "I love to compete and give it my best."
Schwartz uses his experience in the box when he is attacking opposing hitters.
"As a hitter, I knew my weaknesses and how I would approach it," Schwartz said. "When facing certain hitters, I would use that to my advantage. I didn't hit the inside pitch well, so if I am facing a hitter like that, I definitely exploit that and use that to my advantage."
Schwartz acknowledges that he has been able to rely on his velocity to overpower hitters during his collegiate career and knows that he may have to make adjustments to how he approaches hitters in professional baseball.
"I think the biggest challenge [in turning pro] is going to be the transition," Schwartz said. "What is going to be the biggest difference? Are the wood bats going to be equalizers? Am I going to have to learn how to pitch differently? What do the coaches want from me and what will I have to learn?
"I have always been able to get away with my fastball against anyone that we've played with. I'm anxious to see how that will play out. Will my fastball work to my advantage or will I have to develop some new stuff?"
Schwartz had heard from the A's leading up to the draft, but Oakland was one of several teams that had expressed an interest going into draft day, so he was somewhat surprised when the A's were the team that called him.
He is expected to sign with the A's quickly, although the details of his contract are still being worked out. The A's have yet to tell Schwartz where he will begin his professional career, but there is a strong chance that he will debut with the Vermont Lake Monsters not far from where he grew up in upstate New York.
"Being close to home would definitely be nice for me," Schwartz said.
As a native New Yorker, Schwartz admits he grew up a New York Yankees fan and that as recently as this week, he was partial to the Pinstripers. All of that changed on Friday when he got the call from Oakland.
"I definitely saw the first game [of the A's-Yankees series this week] when they went into extras," Schwartz said. "Brandon Moss took one of the Yankees' relievers deep and I thought that was unfortunate at the time, but now, I'm happy about it."