Schmitt’s record-setting throws bring back college memories originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
Casey Schmitt‘s throw to end the second inning on Wednesday lit up the radar gun, quickly became a popular topic on Giants social media and produced a hilarious guttural sound on the broadcast. But when the rookie was asked to talk about the 94.1-mph assist a couple hours later, he ran into a problem.
“Which one was it?” he asked reporters.
Schmitt couldn’t recall which specific throw on the day was his hardest, and it was hard to blame him. He had three of the nine fastest assists by an MLB infielder in that game against the Philadelphia Phillies alone, including another strike to first just three pitches earlier that registered at 91.5 mph.
By the end of the day, Schmitt had five of the 10 fastest assists of the season by an infielder, even though he had played just nine big league games at the time.
If you’re thinking that’s the type of arm pitching coaches dream of, you wouldn’t be wrong. In addition to being an infielder skilled enough to be drafted in the second round in 2020, Schmitt was the closer at San Diego State, picking up 23 saves in 50 appearances. But his collegiate pitching highlight didn’t come for the Aztecs.
Schmitt played both ways in the prestigious Cape Cod League before his junior season, and he actually was more successful that summer as a pitcher. He hit five homers and posted a .740 OPS at third, but on the mound he had a 2.45 ERA in 22 innings, striking out 26 and recording three saves.
Schmitt reached his innings limit before the playoffs, but his summer coach at Cotuit called the SDSU staff and asked for permission to get him out there for the championship game. In the clincher, Schmitt pulled a Shohei Ohtani, hitting two homers and then moving to the mound for the ninth inning, with a strikeout and double play wrapping up a championship for Cotuit.
The effort earned him playoff MVP honors, and Giants senior director of amateur scouting Michael Holmes remembers talk in the Cape of Schmitt becoming a closer. The Giants had other plans.
Schmitt was listed as a third baseman/right-handed pitcher on Baseball America’s draft board in 2020, with the scouting outlet calling him a “natural on the mound” with a low-90s fastball “that explodes late” and an average splitter. “He has a fallback as a power reliever if his bat stalls,” Schmitt’s scouting profile read.
On draft night, Holmes threw cold water on any two-way talk.
“Look, Casey is a really athletic guy who obviously excelled on the mound and at the plate,” he said at the time. “We really like him and we really like his bat and we really like his ability at third base, so when we drafted him we see him as a third baseman.”
Asked about that this week, Holmes joked that he could have added “shortstop.” At either position right now, the arm has proven to be elite.
Schmitt’s 94.1-mph throw — the fastest by a Giants infielder since tracking began in 2015 — came at third base, but he also has a 92.7-mph rocket from shortstop. The Giants also use him at second base, and if Schmitt really decides to show off from there, first baseman LaMonte Wade Jr. might have to start wearing catcher’s gear out to the dirt. Wade already has needed multiple repair sessions on his glove.
“Some of the strings got popped on one of his throws,” Wade said. “I’ve redone it twice now, and I’ll probably have to do it a couple more times. I just got a new glove, so I’m trying to break that one in for him, too.”
Schmitt will get plenty of opportunities, although he’s not actively seeking to break gloves and the team’s Statcast records.
“I’m not trying to go out there and throw every ball as hard as I can,” he said on Monday’s “Giants Talk” podcast. “It’s just kind of, how much do I need to put on it to make sure I get the guy for it to be not a close play. It just depends on the speed of the game, the speed of the ball and the speed of the runner.”
Phillies third baseman Alec Bohm, for example, hit a roller that forced Schmitt to field it near the line, then take a couple of crow hops before unleashing 94.1 mph to get the out by a step. The rookie displayed the kind of timing that has become the norm over the last decade with Brandon Crawford on the left side, and that’s not all they have in common.
Crawford was the star shortstop at UCLA, but he volunteered to help out on the mound as a junior when the Bruins started having bullpen issues. He hit 93 mph as a college reliever and has not exactly been subtle about his desire to pitch in a big league game one day.
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If Schmitt has those dreams, he has kept them under wraps, but he breaks into a wide smile when talking about his days as a closer. Schmitt has pitched since Little League and said he took the two-way mindset to San Diego State, where he recorded nine saves as a freshman and allowed just one earned run in 32 innings.
Even as he climbed draft boards as a third baseman, Schmitt was used as a closer, too. He threw a four-seam fastball, sinker, cutter and splitter.
“There were some crazy moments,” he said. “I’d go directly from third right to the mound in that inning, and then there were times where I would be, like, hitting third in the inning and I’d go directly from third to the bullpen and get as many throws as I can, and then I’d go run out to be on deck.
“They’d call time or something just to slow the game down. They’d give me some time to get my helmet on and my batting gloves and stuff. That was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed doing both at that level.”