Welcome to the Who Is series, which should bring attention to prospects that do not get as much attention as others in the organization. I do not know how long this series will last. This could be the last one.
So who is Jaime Schultz?
The Rays drafted Schultz from High Point in the 14th round in 2013. His career for the Panthers was pretty unremarkable, mostly because he could not throw strikes. In 161 innings over three seasons, he walked 107 batters.
If strikeout rates are indicators of stuff, Schultz's always stood out. In those 161 innings, he struck out 176 batters. As a freshman in 2010, he was 10th in the Big South in Ks despite throwing 14 fewer innings than anyone else in the top 10. Another freshman, Eddie Butler, who went on to become a top prospect with Colorado, struck out three fewer batters in 28 more innings.
He did it against top competition in one summer at the Cape Cod League too. In 2012, he led the Chatam staff in strikeouts despite only ranking ninth in innings.
In 2011, Schultz had to sit through a redshirt season. In the 2010 Big South Conference Tournament, he started experiencing elbow pain that eventually led to Tommy John surgery.
Schultz started each of the following two seasons in the bullpen but would finish them in the weekend rotation. He made 14 career starts at High Point, and he has already accumulated 24 as a professional.
In his platform season, Schultz did not seem to get much draft buzz, although he would have a brief scouting report on Baseball America come draft time and place 291st in its final ranking. He was not selected 291st, though, and the Rays got him 428th overall. Just four days later, he signed and began his professional career.
On June 17th, Schultz made his pro debut and struck out a batter in the ninth inning of a shutout against Aberdeen. Exactly a month later, he made his first professional start and struck out two in three scoreless innings against Williamsport. He threw 44 1/3 innings for Hudson Valley and finished with a 3.05 ERA and 1.38 WHIP with a 29.1% strikeout rate and 15.3 BB%. Among pitchers with 40 or more innings, he was fourth in strikeout rate, but he also had the second-highest walk rate.
After that debut, Schultz was recognized in Baseball America's annual draft report card for the Rays (BA, $), thanks to his fastball that "can touch 97 mph with late life through the zone".
Schultz missed the first month of 2014 after having his appendix removed, but he quickly made up for lost time. He debuted for Class A Bowling Green on May 16th and set a career-high in strikeouts with nine. A start later, he did it again, this time striking out 12 batters. After nine effective starts for the Hot Rods, he was promoted to Class A-Advanced Charlotte.
He was not as effective with the Stone Crabs, and he tried to make up for some of the lost time because of the appendectomy and a stint on the disabled list with a groin injury by going to the Arizona Fall League. Schultz was himself, leading the league in strikeouts and walks.
I am not sure if Schultz will be returning to Charlotte to start 2015 or head up to Double-A Montgomery. Between Charlotte and his AFL stint, he has 50 innings above the Midwest League, so more seasoning in the Florida State League certainly is not out of the question.
I do expect that Schultz will continue working as a starter, even if his future lies in the bullpen due to a number of factors; he is a 5'10 righty with mechanical and command issues, and he has not yet displayed the durability needed to be a big league starter.
Schultz certainly does a lot right though and offers plenty of reasons to consider him a sleeper. His size has not yet been a factor. In 104 1/3 pro innings, he has only allowed five home runs. That is because of his fastball with movement that touches the high-90s and averaged 93 in the AFL.
He complements that fastball with a potentially plus breaking ball and average changeup. His big problem facing lefties is not getting hit but throwing strikes. He walked 13.4% of lefties in 2014 and 25% in 2013. I do not know if that is a reflection of his changeup being inconsistent or something else, but it certainly has to be improved.
Keep an eye on Schultz in 2015. Whether he is starting or relieving, few in the organization can match his stuff.