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TCB 2017 MLB Draft Profile: J.J. Schwarz, C, University of Florida

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Once seen as a surefire first-rounder and perhaps even a top-5 selection, Schwarz’s star has faded a bit in the last year or so. Can he reclaim his freshman year magic, or have college pitchers solved him?

NCAA Baseball: College World Series-Florida vs Miami
JJ Schwarz is an enigmatic player whose stock has hit an all-time low as of late
Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

Tale of the Tape

DOB: 3/26/1996

Height: 6’2”

Weight: 215 lbs.

Player Overview

As a Florida high school prospect in the 2014 class, Schwarz was seen as one of the best catchers available and likely would have been selected in the 2nd or 3rd round based purely on talent level, and would have had a chance to sneak into the supplemental round. However, a strong commitment to his hometown Florida Gators created signability concerns and he ended up making the jump to college ball.

During his Freshman year, it looked as though this decision was going to pay off in a big way for Schwarz, whose father was a big-league pitcher, as he was one of the best hitters in the country in his first year on campus. He slashed .332/.398/.629 with a 28/46 BB/K in 285 appearances and had 37 extra-base knocks, including 18 homers.

However, in 2016, he took a significant step back with the bat, managing just seven homers and failing to reduce his K rate while hitting .290. The one positive is that he did manage to nearly double his walk total, accumulating 45 during his sophomore campaign.

On defense, Schwarz has a solid reputation and average or better tools to handle the backstop. His arm is average for the position and his lean frame and athleticism make his pop fairly explosive. He won’t be a gold glover, but most agree that he will stick at the position. That said, scouts have had few opportunities to see Schwarz catch since high school as defensive specialist Michael Rivera handles the bulk of the catching duties for the Gators. He made a brief appearance in the Cape league, playing catcher, but was forced out with an injury. Teams will no doubt want to put Schwarz through defensive workouts leading up to the draft if they have interest, as Schwarz does not figure to make too many more starts behind the plate this season than he has in years past.

Schwarz’s mealticket is his power bat. He does not offer the most explosive bat speed, but has great hands and an excellent swing path with little wasted motion. He shows great balance as a hitter and has enough power in his frame to get the ball out the other way. While he is not the best pure hitter, I can an envision a future average bat, which would make him quite a weapon when combined with his above-average to plus power and defensive home.

Unfortunately, the 2017 season has been incredibly rough for the young catcher thus far. He is slashing a paltry .228/.304/.346 and has left the yard only three times in 33 games. To make matters worse, he holds a 15/36 BB/K in his 142 plate appearances. If he is unable to rebound, he may be best served returning to school and trying to reclaim his freshman-year glory. As things currently stand, Schwarz appears to have gone the way of Skye Bolt, but at just 21 years, 1 month, and with elite performance just two years in the rearview, it is not yet time to give up on Schwarz.

Projected Draft Range

Given his performance this season, it is difficult to imagine being popped before rounds 3-5. However, if he can show some resurgence down the stretch and impresses in the draft process, he could move into day 1 discussion again.

Will He Sign?

This is dependent on how the rest of the year shakes out for Schwarz, but if I had to guess right now I would think that he returns to play his senior season. His stock is currently at a nadir and it is difficult to envision it going anywhere but up with another year of seasoning.

Does He Make Sense for the Astros?

Given the dearth of quality bats at the catching position in the minor-league system with the exception of Garrett Stubbs, I do think that Schwarz is a player that the Astros should be mindful of, particularly if he can right the ship the rest of the way.

MLB Comparison

Schwarz reminds me of a player like Chris Iannetta- a solid defender behind the plate with some power and strong OBP skills. At times, Iannetta was one of the better offensive catchers in baseball during his prime.

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