Top SF Giants prospect Nick Swiney talks breakout, golf, and more

NC State baseball. (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)
NC State baseball. (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images) /
Nick Swiney, SF Giants
NC State baseball fans. (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images) /

The SF Giants drafted Nick Swiney with the 67th overall pick in the 2020 MLB Draft. The left-handed pitcher out of North Carolina State chatted with Around the Foghorn’s Marc Delucchi about his breakout 2020 season, the draft, the pandemic, and much more.

SF Giants Prospect Nick Swiney Profile: Adjusting to the rotation

Coming into the Spring of 2020, North Carolina State southpaw Nick Swiney was hoping to take the next step in his career. After pitching out of the bullpen in his first two seasons on campus, Swiney knew he was on pro scouts’ radar. With a strong showing in the rotation, he was in position to shoot up draft boards.

To achieve that goal Swiney had to corral his command. From 2018-19, he struck out 132 batters in 87.1 innings of work but walked 49 batters as well. “Out of the bullpen… my job was to come in with guys on base and strike guys out. But this year it was a different mindset,” said Swiney in an interview with Around the Foghorn.

He’d seen what his stuff could do against top college competition. Now it was about finding the right approach, “I worked a lot on my mental side of the game… I [didn’t] want to be a guy in the fifth inning with 100 pitches… I wanted to go into this year as a pitcher, not a thrower,” explained Swiney.

Whatever locked Swiney in, it worked. While he only got to make four starts before the COVID-19 pandemic canceled the spring athletics season, Swiney looked like a new pitcher. He maintained his strong strikeout rate (13.5 K/9), worked deep into games (averaged 7 innings pitched a start), and cut his walk-rate to an elite level (1.9 BB/9).

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Yet seemingly as soon as the season got started, it was over, “We were all in shock, but we all knew that something bigger was about to happen. With something like a pandemic… we knew that we weren’t going to be able to get back out there in front of crowds,” said Swiney.

SF Giants Prospect Nick Swiney Profile: Draft

When the draft was condensed to five rounds, he felt for many of his teammates who wouldn’t have opportunities to go pro. At the same time, Swiney showed enough in his 4 starts to clinch his status as a top three-round prospect.

Public draft pundits were somewhat split on what to make of Swiney’s limited sample of elite play. They all agreed he was worthy of a pick, but where remained a larger question.

Baseball America was the lowest on Swiney, ranking him the 85th best prospect in the draft. In a more moderate ranking, FanGraphs Prospects had Swiney as the 51st best prospect in the draft. On the other hand, Keith Law of The Athletic was sold on his Spring stint, ranking him the 22nd best player available.

With a lot up in the air, Swiney focused on controlling what he could. He returned home to Charlotte and found a routine working out in his home gym, throwing when he could, and staying in contact with teams over Zoom.

Still, even with his routine, Swiney wanted a new athletic challenge. Growing up, he’d played basketball and football alongside baseball, but decided to take up a more socially distanced sport, “[I’m] trying to learn how to get better at golf…It’s hard. It’s frustrating. I don’t have the patience sometimes. It’s so fun when you’re good at it, but I’m not there yet.”

The SF Giants selected Swiney in the 2nd round compensatory B round with the 67th overall pick. Ironically, they were one of the few teams that hadn’t reached out to him for a Zoom meeting, “It was funny because people ask me if I talked to the Giants during the process. I met with them during fall meetings, but once this all happened, I didn’t have a Zoom call with them,” he said.

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Swiney signed for an over-slot $1.2MM signing bonus, the third largest of the team’s seven-player class.

SF Giants Prospect Nick Swiney Profile: Looking ahead

Over the past year, the Giants have taken advantage of scouting director Michael Holmes’ roots in the Carolinas. After acquiring Will Wilson via trade last offseason and drafting Patrick Bailey and Swiney this June, three of the organization’s best prospects are alumni of the prodigious baseball program at NC State.

While Swiney doesn’t have the first-round pedigree of Bailey or Wilson, he’s nothing to scoff at either. In Around the Foghorn’s updated Giants top 31 prospect rankings, Swiney ranks as the 13th best prospect in the system before throwing a professional pitch.

Wilson was drafted in 2019, so he didn’t get to see Swiney this spring up close. However, he still gave his former Wolfpack teammate rave reviews in an interview with Around the Foghorn.

"“Swiney came in and always had big-league off-speed stuff. His sophomore year he was our go-to guy in the pen and dominated hitters because he could locate all three pitches. I watched [him] throw this year on TV and he looked like he had confidence and a swagger that anyone would want to have pitching for them.”"

Bailey, Swiney’s primary catcher over his college career, offers another set of advantages according to Swiney, “Patrick and I have a really good relationship, we talk every day… Now it puts Pat and me at an advantage because we know how each other works, what our tendencies are. Obviously when you get to pro ball so much is new that it’ll be really good to have someone I’m familiar with.”

As prospects like Logan Webb, Mauricio Dubon, and Joey Bart begin to find their way to the Giants big-league roster, the NC State trio represents another exciting group of prospects on the way. Fans aren’t the only ones excited, “I’m really looking forward to playing with those guys in Giants uniforms for the rest of our careers,” Swiney said.

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Since signing in July, Swiney moved back to Raleigh to continue undergraduate classes at NC State. He has transitioned to the Giants throwing and lifting program and looks forward to getting his professional career underway whenever the pandemic allows.