When you select a reliever in the middle rounds of the MLB Draft, you can’t expect much. Maybe they have a solid pitch or two, but more than likely they have mediocre stuff and/or have a world of trouble throwing their pitches anywhere near the strike zone. Jaime Schultz is certainly a couple notches better than that. So how was he possibly on the board when the Rays made their 14th round selection?
Schultz, a 5’10″, 200 right-hander out of High Point University in North Carolina comes with his baggage. First off, he’s a redshirt junior who will be 22 years old before his first professional pitch. Why did he redshirt? Because he had to undergo Tommy John Surgery in 2010. And other than that, Schultz is known for having a bad attitude on the mound, getting complacent and not doing enough to attack hitters. Yes, Schultz is far from perfect. But does that outweigh his excellent arsenal?
Schultz’s fastball sits in the 92-93 MPH range most often, touching as high as 96 MPH, and when he’s at his best, it comes with movement away from right-handed hitters and excellent late bite down in the zone. Schultz combines his fastball with two solid breaking balls, a curveball and a slider. The curveball features sharp 11-to-5 break with impressive depth, although Schultz sometimes loses control of it and either throws it well out of the zone or leaves it up. His slider, meanwhile, features solid late downward action to force contact on the ground and a fair amount of whiffs. Schultz gets in trouble when he overthrows or loses his arm slot, causing him to leave his pitches up, and inconsistent control led to 36 walks in 60.2 innings for him at High Point. But with a great fastball, a curveball that has its moments, and a serviceable slider, he clearly has the ability to be an effective big league reliever someday and maybe even a late-inning type if he refines his secondary pitches.
Schultz drives scouts crazy because his mentality on the mound doesn’t line up with the adrenaline-pumping bullpen role his stuff dictates he should have. Instead of telling hitters “here it is, good luck,” Schultz finds himself nibbling at the corners and walking far more batters than he should. Whether it’s a holdover from his surgery or simply his personality, Schultz has just let the mental aspect of the game beat him so far. But is that something that’s impossible to fix? Of course not, and it’s something the Rays do all the time. Yunel Escobar has looked outstanding the past few weeks as the latest example of talented but troubled players the Rays have brought along who have flourished in Tampa Bay. And it’s not like Schultz has really done anything wrong. He hasn’t been arrested or suspended or anything along those lines. If the Rays just put some work in to get him attacking the strike zone, he has the stuff to be an effective bullpen arm.
Between his mentality on the mound and his injury history, Jaime Schultz was passed in on the MLB Draft team after team and round after round. His flaws were put under the microscope while his impressive stuff was overlooked, and he just kept slipping. At the end of the day, though, the Rays took a chance on him, and in a few years, they could very well be reaping the rewards.