Nick Swiney does not have the high-90s heat over which so many scouts salivate. What he has is a three-pitch mix — a low-90s fastball with plenty of movement and an impressive changeup and breaking ball — in which he can go after hitters with any weapon in any count.
Though he doesn’t have the stuff that breaks radar guns, he does not want to shy away from hitters.
And he’s not exactly shying away from an unfair comparison to a pitcher who prides himself on hitting. To a lot of Giants fans, Swiney always will be the pitcher from North Carolina State the Giants drafted with the pick they received for letting Madison Bumgarner walk in free agency. Hell of a one-for-one trade, right?
A 21-year-old who has not yet pitched in a professional game forever linked with a legendary World Series MVP. Others would shrug off the attention, resist the bond they did not ask for. Swiney smiled.
“I’ll get messages, fans will message me about it. It’s kind of funny,” Swiney said on a Zoom conference call Thursday, the lefty from North Carolina talking about another lefty from North Carolina. “… [Bumgarner is] kind of from this area, left-handed pitcher that hits right-handed, I’m the same way. So I gotta learn how to hit again I guess for the future because I haven’t picked up a bat in — gosh, a long time, high-school ball.”
With the NL possibly adopting the DH for good, he may not need to worry. Bumgarner is a graduate of South Caldwell High School in Hudson, N.C., about an hour away from Swiney’s William Amos Hough High School. Some of Bumgarner’s friends are family friends of Swiney’s. The two haven’t met, but Bumgarner would spend offseason days visiting friends Swiney knew.
“It’s cool. It’s, I guess in a way, small world that my pick was for a guy that is from the same area that I’m from. We played against the same high schools, which is funny — his high-school team played against some of the ones that I played. So it’s cool to just see how that guy, technically for my pick, was kind of a guy that was really similar to me in a way.”
If embracing the pressure is on the Giants’ check list, the team could check it in pen and not pencil.
The No. 67-overall selection is joining an organization that acquired his battery mate, Patrick Bailey, in this year’s first round. Bailey had a hunch about his destination because of his relationship with amateur scouting director Michael Holmes. Swiney was not as tipped off.
The Giants and Swiney hadn’t talked leading up to the draft, and while Bailey knew the range in which he would be selected, Swiney was more up in the air. He said there were two other teams that were “really pushing and really reaching out to me,” but then the Giants called.
He would be staying with Bailey and reuniting with good friend Will Wilson, who was NC State’s shortstop a year prior before being drafted by the Angels — who flipped him to the Giants this offseason.
“I just hope I live long enough to sit down on the couch one day and watch Nick pitch to Bailey with Will playing shortstop in a major league game,” Wolfpack head coach Elliott Avent said over the phone Thursday.
With Bailey, announced Thursday as the national college catcher of the year, calling the pitches for the in-sync duo, perhaps they can rise at about the same rate.
Swiney, listed at 6-feet-3, 187 pounds, converted from reliever to starter this season and saw an uptick in stuff and effectiveness, going 4-0 with a 1.29 ERA with 42 strikeouts in 28 innings before the season’s unceremonious close. According to him, he did not change much apart from mentally, learning “who I was as a pitcher, what I needed to do to really succeed.”
So who is he?
“Nick Swiney has a big-time changeup and a big-time breaking ball,” Avent said. “Patrick knows exactly how to call — he knows Nick Swiney’s game as good as anybody.”
“He was lights-out all year,” Bailey said. “It was fun. … He’s a three-pitch mix guy with two plus offspeed pitches with the changeup and the breaking ball. When he had all three, the offense didn’t have much chance. And even when he had two of them, he had a lot of success this year, which goes to show how good he is and how good his stuff is.”
Swiney likes to work fast, likes to pitch “backwards” — throwing changes and breaking balls in traditional just-get-me-a-strike fastball counts. He also carries a fastball with what he says is 22-inch vertical movement, an elite number that helps explain how he gets swings and misses with a low-90s heater.
“I don’t get too analytical with that type of stuff yet, I haven’t really dug into that,” said Swiney, who, along with the rest of the Giants draft picks, has not been told what the next step is. “But they said that’s really, really impressive. It … gives it the illusion that it’s I guess coming in a little faster than it appears.”
If it fools the hitters, it won’t fool the catcher who has been catching him for a long while and doesn’t plan on stopping any time soon.
“I’ve been kind of spoiled to have Patrick for now two and a half years,” said Swiney, who added he rarely shakes Bailey off. “So it’s just even better now that hopefully for the rest of our careers that we can play with each other.”