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One to Root For: RJ Swindle

This is going to be a real test for the Phillies organization (one that other organizations have already failed).  What to do with RJ Swindle?

Never heard of him?  Neither had I until Baseball Prospectus flagged him today .  He's a AA pitcher for the Phils who has floated around the minors for several years now.  He was drafted in the 14th round of the 2004 draft by the Red Sox.  After 51 innings of 1.94 ERA pitching, mostly in relief, he was released.  The Yankees gave him a shot in 2006.  He pitched 44+ innings of A ball giving up just 3 (yup, you read that right - 3) earned runs.  His ERA was a video-game-esque 0.61.  For that, he earned a 2 inning promotion to AAA, where he gave up 0 runs . . . and then, naturally, was released again.

The Phillies signed him away from the Independent League Newark Bears last year.  He had 29 innings of a 0.93 ERA in low-A Lakewood and was promoted mid-year.  He showed his first signs of stumbling in professional ball at high-A Clearwater, pitching 15 innings and giving up 8 earned runs.  But he's rebounded so far this year at AA Reading, where he's back to his miniscule ERA ways -- 0.54 ERA in 16+ innings.

All told, in 157+ innings of professional non-independent league pitching, Swindle has a 1.48 ERA, with a 175:18 strikeout-to-walk ratio.  In case you need that again, his strikeout-to-walk ratio is 175 to 18.

So what's wrong with this guy that he's bounced around three organizations now even though he's shown every sign of dominating almost wherever he's been?  Swindle is a lefty junkballer.  He throws his fastball in the low- to mid-80s.  He has a curveball in the low 50s.  Obviously, he doesn't fit the profile of someone who should dominate, but so far, he has.  It's going to be up to the Phillies organization to give him a shot now.

Normally, I wouldn't hold my breath on something like this.  The Phillies have not tended to be an organization that bucks the baseball trend on many things.  But maybe this is one area that the organization has seen that it can succeed already.  Swindle's profile reminds me a bit of Randy Wolf.  Wolf, also a lefty, has a fastball that reaches into the low 90s, so he's got that on Swindle, but when Wolf was at his best in the early 00s, he mixed in really slow curveballs and lots of other off-speed stuff.  Wolf also is short, something that goes against the presumed requirements for pitchers.  Undoubtedly, Wolf was a big time prospect, something Swindle is not, but maybe an organization that nurtured Wolf could also see something good in a guy like Swindle and give him a chance if he keeps dominating as he has.