SF Giants top prospects: No. 13 — LHP Nick Swiney
Highest Level: NCAA (NC State)
Acquired: Draft (2020)
Future-Value Grade: 40+
Giants scouting director Michael Holmes built his reputation working in the Carolinas and he’s been very keen on tapping into his experience over the past two draft cycles. When the Giants selected Swiney with the 66th pick in the 2020 draft, he joined former NC State teammates Will Wilson and Patrick Bailey in San Francisco’s system.
Coming into this spring, Swiney was an intriguing pop-up prospect, moving from the Wolfpack bullpen to rotation. The pandemic shortened season left evaluators just four official starts to work off of. FanGraphs ranked Swiney the 51st best prospect in the draft and Keith Law of The Athletic ranked him as the 22nd best prospect, but most other rankings had him ranked around 80. The Giants signed him for an over-slot $1,200,000 signing bonus to make sure they could have him.
Swiney fits the pitching profile that the Giants have favored since Holmes took over. The southpaw doesn’t have traditional overpowering stuff. As a starter, his fastball works in the low-90s and sat around 93-95 mph when he worked out of the pen.
His fastball works alongside a changeup and curveball. The breaking ball projects as above-average and gets some plus grades. However, he’s made some notable strides with his changeup and it looks like it could be an above-average big-league pitch as well.
Working out of the bullpen through his first two seasons, Swiney racked up strikeouts, but it came with sacrificed control. As a sophomore, Swiney struck out 95 batters in less than 60 innings but walked nearly 5 batters per innings. He’s been open that his mindset out of the pen was too focus on punchouts even if that sacrificed control.
This offseason, Swiney prepared to move into the rotation with a new mindset. It seemed to work. In 28 innings, Swiney struck out 42 and walked just 6 batters across 4 starts.
Law believed Swiney was going to pitch himself into the first round when the season was cut short. Perhaps that’s the case, but reading too much into any 4-start stretch can be a dangerous proposition.
There’s no denying his effectiveness. Pitch-tracking data seems keen on Swiney’s fastball movement to help it play beyond its velocity as well. While the track record remains short-lived, there is reason to believe he can be a mid to back of rotation arm.