When discussing the upcoming wave of prospects for the Tampa Bay Rays, Jaime Schultz is rarely mentioned. That could change in a hurry.
As a minor league pitcher, there are a few ways that one can get noticed. One of the best ways is to put up a number that is absolutely dominating, vastly outperforming the competition. That is what Tampa Bay Rays prospect Jaime Schultz did last season, as he struck out a system leading 163 batters in 130.2 innings, as he struck out 11.2 batters per nine innings.
Strikeout rates such as those are nothing new for the Rays farmhand. Since being drafted in the 14th round out of High Point University in the 2013 MLB Amateur Draft, Schultz has blown away the opposition. In his 370 career minor league innings, Schultz has 465 strikeouts, showing an impressive ability to send opponents back to the pine.
Normally, such an impressive strikeout rate would make a pitcher one of the top prospects in an organization. However, to go along with those impressive strikeout rates, Schultz also has an elevated walk rate. In those 370 innings, he was issued 216 walks. As he has allowed just over seven hits per nine innings, those free passes have limited Schultz’ effectiveness during his rapid ascent through the Rays system.
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There is no questioning Schultz’ stuff. His fastball easily sits in the mid 90’s, and has been clocked at 99 MPH. He also has a solid curve and the vestiges of a change, although the latter still needs a lot of work. However, his command is still a work in progress, and could be a continual battle.
Although the Rays have primarily used Schultz as a starter in the minors, his future may be in the bullpen. Tampa Bay currently has a surplus of starting pitching on the Major League roster, and with arms like Brent Honeywell and Jacob Faria soon to arrive, Schultz may not have a place in the rotation.
Such a transition would play up to his strengths. Schultz would be able to rely upon his fastball and curve, using his bouts of wildness as an intimidation factor when he is called upon from the bullpen. If his command continues to improve, as his walk total dropped from 90 in 2015 to 68 last year, he could be a weapon as a setup man. Likewise, should the Rays trade Alex Colome, Schultz could become the Rays closer of the future.
Jaime Schultz has had a rapid rise through the Tampa Bay Rays system. It may not be a surprise if he sees some action this season, even if it is as a reliever instead of a starter.