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August 20, 2018 at 8:00 AM

Scouting Scratch: Mike Shawaryn

PAWTUCKET, R.I. -- Right-handed pitcher Mike Shawaryn has been one of the most consistent pitchers in the Red Sox system this year. In Portland, Shawaryn made 19 starts, throwing 112 2/3 innings with 99 strikeouts and a 3.28 ERA and 1.13 WHIP. After the trade deadline, Shawaryn was promoted to Pawtucket where he has made three starts and one relief appearence, throwing 21 1/3 innings, allowing 13 hits, 6 runs, and 1 home run while walking 8 and striking out 24. I got the chance to see Shawaryn’s Triple-A debut on August 3, an outing in which he showed both the promise that makes him one of the top pitching prospects in the system and the weaknesses that lead to questions about his future role in the majors. Shawaryn started off very strong in the start, but as the game went on, he started to get into trouble.

Shawaryn was selected in the fifth round of the 2016 draft out of Maryland. He excelled as a sophomore and was seen as a potential first-round draftee, but struggled his junior year, in part due to injuries, and fell in the draft. The Red Sox signed him for an over-slot bonus of $637.500 and he has steadily moved through the system, reaching the highest level of the minors in his second full season.

Shawaryn was already physically mature when he signed, but he has filled out even more since, especially in his lower half. He is now a sturdy 6-foot-2, 239 pounds. He has the build of someone who could withstand a starter’s workload, though his delivery and pitch mix put that projection into question.

Shawaryn’s delivery has a considerable amount of effort as he slings the ball from a low three-quarters arm slot. He starts in the middle of the rubber and utilizes a high leg kick before coming forward. He has a quick arm and hides the ball well behind his body. His delivery is on the stiff side and he slightly rocks back before extending his leg straight out and then coming forward towards the plate. Even though his delivery is unique, he is clearly comfortable with it and when he gets in a rhythm, he does a good job repeating it. He’ll run into trouble when he gets out of sync, which is what happened in his first start with Pawtucket. Shawaryn cruised through three perfect innings with four strikeouts while really locked in with his delivery. In the fourth inning, he lost his release point and fought his delivery for the rest of the outing, allowing four runs on seven hits and a walk.

Shawaryn came out with his fastball sitting 92-93 mph in the first and sat 91-93 mph for the first three innings, doing a good job commanding the ball down in the zone with life. As the outing went on, his velocity decreased, and by the fourth inning he was primarily sitting 89-90 mph. Shawaryn’s fastball doesn’t have overwhelming velocity, so he has to keep the ball down in order to be effective. The pitch didn’t miss many bats in the outing, eliciting only 3 of the 181 swinging strikes he got. It was also hit hard, especially from the fourth inning onward, including for six hits of the seven he allowed. The Rochester (MIN) hitters had a clear plan in their second and third trips to the plate to lay off his slider and attack his fastball. By the end of his outing, it got to the point where Shawaryn was using his fastball like a secondary pitch and primarily featuring his slider. The fastball projects as an average offering, though it may play up more in a bullpen role like it did in the first time through the order in this outing.

Shawaryn’s bread and butter pitch is his slider, which is a potential plus offering. He has advanced feel for the pitch and confidence to use it in any count against hitters from both sides of the plate. He throws the pitch 84-87 mph with sweepy, horizontal break. He threw the pitch for strikes and it showed bite, especially at higher velocities. The pitch showed plus potential and was very effective, to the point where he used it like a fastball. He got 14 of his 18 swinging strikes with the pitch and could still rely on the pitch when he was struggling with his release point. The problems came when hitters laid off the pitch and forced him to eventually throw his fastball.

Shawaryn also threw a few changeups at 85-86 mph, though it is clear the pitch is still a work in progress and lags well behind his slider. He threw one average changeup with late drop and deceptive arm speed that got a swinging strike, but otherwise the majority were well below-average pitches. For the most part, the pitch was firm and looked more like a fastball he took something off.

While he has worked as a starter exclusively since he signed, except for his most recent appearance which came in a piggyback role, Shawaryn’s long-term projection remains a question mark. Right now, Shawaryn is primarily a two-pitch pitcher, his changeup a clear work in progress. In the outing scouted, he didn’t have his changeup working and the velocity and effectiveness of his fastball decreased as he got deeper into the game. These issues would lend themselves to him eventually moving into a bullpen role, where his fastball-slider combination could be very effective in spurts where hitters wouldn’t get an extended look at him. To stick as a starter long-term, Shawaryn will have to continue to develop his changeup to the point where is it at least an average pitch, giving him three average-or-better pitches. In either role, there is a path for Shawaryn to develop into a very useful major league player, and the ultimate result could be something in the middle as a swingman type, still a very useful player to a major league team.

Photo credit: Mike Shawaryn by Kelly O'Connor

Ian Cundall is Director of Scouting for SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @IanCundall.