Scouting Padres Prospect Nick Schmidt

Nick Schmidt, the San Diego Padres first-round pick in 2007, left many wanting more – more innings to be precise. After netting just seven innings, Schmidt was shutdown for precautionary reasons and things took a turn for the worse at the end of the year.

Vital Statistics;
Name: Nick Schmidt
Position: LHP
DOB: October 10, 1985
Height: 6-foot-5
Weight: 220
Bats: Left
Throws: Left

Before his career even truly started, Schmidt underwent elbow reconstruction surgery in early October. Selected 23rd overall out of Arkansas, Schmidt is a big-bodied southpaw that attacks the zone and mixes his pitches well.

"We followed him and felt really comfortable with the last several looks we had," Padres scouting director Bill "Chief" Gayton said. "He has solid stuff across the board."

The disturbing news is it is the third time in four years a Padres number one pick has needed surgery, following Cesar Carrillo and Matt Bush.

The recovery time will span the 2008 season with an eye on an official return in Spring Training of 2009.

How do you grade out a kid who barely set food on professional soil?

It isn't easy. He gave up five runs in seven innings on eight hits and six walks while striking out a half dozen for the Fort Wayne Wizards. The flare up seemed to occur in that final outing on July 27 when he walked three and gave up four hits in two innings.

But that is not a true indication of his ability, as evidenced by a stellar college career.

The Missouri native racked up 11 wins, which is tied for the third-highest in school history, during his 2007 collegiate season. He also tied the school record with 124 innings pitched and finished with a .196 opponent batting average, which led the Southeastern Conference.

As a sophomore, Schmidt won SEC Pitcher of the Year honors after going 9-3 with a 3.01 ERA in 116.2 innings.

Schmidt finished his college career as the Razorbacks all-time strikeout leader (345) while ranking second with 52 career starts and third with 28 wins in 340.1 innings pitched. He also ranks second and tied for fifth in single-season strikeouts after striking out 145 in 2006 and 111 in 2007.

A two-time first-team All-SEC selection by league coaches, Schmidt earned back-to-back All-American honors as a first-team selection in 2006 and a second-team choice in 2007.

There are some who say he was predisposed to have an injury. That seems hard to buy. There is simply no way of accurately predicting injury, regardless of the violence in a delivery.

San Diego was cautious with his use after marching out for 124 innings this past season. Another 30-40 innings would have seen him capped, but he managed just seven.

And it seems the injury was ready to blow the minute he stepped into a professional uniform. His fastball was up in the zone in Midwest League play, an uncharacteristic trait for a kid that has always kept the opposition at bay and misses more off the corners and down than up.

"He has four pitches and has performed at the highest level," Padres vice president of scouting and player development Grady Fuson said.

The 6-foot-5 lefty hurls a fastball that ranges from 88 to 90 MPH, topping out a 92 MPH. He works the corners with his heater and generally has good command down in the zone.

"I pitch off my fastball and get guys out by pitching inside," said Schmidt.

The equalizer, however, is a pitch the Padres stress at all levels. Schmidt comes into the organization having already mastered a plus-changeup that keeps hitters off-balance. It is a pitch Schmidt goes to when he needs an out.

"I do consider it my best pitch and favorite pitch to throw because I feel I have command of it better than my other pitches," Schmidt admitted.

He also mixes in a slider with good tilt – a pitch that will need refinement when he returns to the hill.

While he can throw the changeup for strikes, the slider is not a pitch he goes to when he finds himself behind in the count, allowing hitters to sit on his fastball. If he misses out on a first-pitch strike, Schmidt believes he has to be fine and will miss the corners of the plate looking for the perfect strike so he does not get burned.

"His size is a big bonus," pitching coach Wally Whitehurst said. "Being left-handed is a bonus. We all hope he turns out to be the guy he can be for the position he was drafted."

"On schedule," Fuson said in late January. "Schmidt's took place later in the year so (he is) going to basically miss most of 2008. Schmidt is a ways away from being ready to start his throwing programs."

ETA: He was a player the Padres figured would be quickly pushed through the system, especially after beginning his career in Low-A. Aspirations of Double-A by next season and the big leagues the year after have been pushed back. The injury will keep him out for the 2008 season and, as with any injury, there is no telling how he will respond upon his return.

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