Nick Sawyer: Rays Close Out Draft With One Last Upside Pitcher

By Robbie Knopf

From the start to the end, the Rays go for upside. Nick Sawyer could be the poster-child.

Sawyer is a 5’11”, 175 sophomore right-handed pitcher at Howard (Junior) College in Texas. He was a 37th round pick by the Reds in 2010 and a 29th round pick by the Rangers in 2011 before the Rays selected him in the 40th round in this year’s draft. He has the stuff of dreams- and nightmares.

In 2012 at Howard, Sawyer made 10 appearances spanning 15.2 IP and struck out a crazy 24 and allowing with 5 hits and 2 runs, a 1.15 ERA. He also had 4 saves. However, he walked 17, over one per inning. That has been the story with Sawyer.

Sawyer featured a violent crossfire delivery that not only puts pressure on his arm, but has two other functions: 1) it proves deception and 2) it makes his control go haywire. Sawyer has nasty stuff. He has a low-90’s fastball with sharp late downward movement and a dynamic 11-to-5 curveball. Those two pitches force whiffs galore against junior college hitters and have the potential to do the same anywhere- if he can ever figure out where they’re going. Because of his delivery, his release point constantly fluctuates and the results are that the ball goes all over the place.  And while he managed to consistently escape jams at Howard, doing that moving forward is a losing proposition.

If Sawyer can ever find some control, he has late-inning upside. Whether that actually happens is anybody’s guess. But the Rays will see if Sawyer is interested in signing this time, and they’ll hope to refine his command and take advantage of his stuff.