Offseason Prospect Overview: Matt Swarmer

Matt Swarmer (photo by Stephanie Lynn)

Matt Swarmer (photo by Stephanie Lynn)

Season Review

Matt Swarmer entered 2018 as a fringe prospect after spending the majority of 2017 as a swingman in Eugene and South Bend. But the Cubs did show enough confidence in his mental toughness to give him three emergency starts in Tennessee and Iowa at the end of the year. He struggled a bit with Tennessee but he tossed seven shutout innings in his lone start for Iowa. It was a confidence builder for Swarmer as he entered the offseason.

He was a little old for the level but Swarmer quickly established himself as a top starter for Myrtle Beach, being named a Carolina League All-Star, before receiving a quick promotion to AA. He struggled a bit initially but finished the season strong. Among his many impressive stats, the one that stands out the most is the fact he struck out nearly six and a half batters for every one he walked throughout the year. At the conclusion of the season, the Cubs named Swarmer the organization's Minor League Pitcher of the Year.


Swarmer combines an over-the-top arm angle from his 6'5" height with an unorthodox delivery which includes a high leg kick patterned after Bronson Arroyo. It makes for an unusual look for hitters and right-handers in particular have a difficult time picking up the ball against him.

His pitch mix isn't exciting on the surface. His fastball sits 91-92 and tops out at 94. But his four-seamer is effective thanks to late life. It generates late swings even at modest velocity and also sets up his slider for success. All of his pitches tunnel well and even though his slider doesn't get a ton of break it too generates plenty of whiffs. 


I'm fairly confident Swarmer can continue to control right-handed batters, even at the Major League level. The question is whether the occasional issues he has against lefties will become even more amplified further up the ladder. As an extreme fly ball pitcher he has little room for error, so he'll need to develop and utilize his changeup more often moving forward.


At worst, I think Swarmer ends up as a utility pitcher that rides the Des Moines shuttle and rarely hurts his team. He reminds me of Luke Farrell in a number of ways, but with a greater degree of control and consistency. At 25 years old, he needs to follow up his successful 2018 with another in 2019, because he has little time to lose if he wants to forge a long MLB career.

2019 Outlook

Entering this offseason I expected Swarmer would have a decent chance to compete for a rotation slot in Iowa out of spring training, but the Cubs did not trade away any of the competition ahead of him like I thought would occur, and they also added additional veterans to the mix. So, Swarmer will undoubtedly return to Tennessee open the campaign even though he is probably ready for a higher level of competition.


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  • Is he tipping his pitches depending if he high kicks or not? First thing I noticed,

  • In reply to SFToby:

    He doesn't use the leg kick when working from the stretch.

  • In reply to SFToby:

    I watched him throw numerous times. I f anything it baffles the hitters.

  • Sounds like a BOR SP. But a cheap BOR SP still has plenty of value.

  • In reply to John57:

    Agreed. Nothing wrong with inexpensive eaten innings homegrown in the farm system.

  • Seems like all our pitchers fit this profile—average to below average velocity and Ok secondaries which profile as a BOR type at best.

    I hope we start drafting and developing some of the guys who sit 94-96 with a great secondary offering. It’s surprising that we lack big arms throughout the organization. I’d love to know how and what McLoed thinks about that.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    You're forgetting that fireballin' rookie phenom, Luke Haggerty!

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    He is only a rookie if he makes the Majors, otherwise he is just a minor league player. Hope he becomes a rookie. :-)

  • In reply to Cliff1969:


  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    You forgot Robert Robbins too. He also was signed out of Driveline. Clocked at “96 on scout day w/some really good secondaries.” Maybe they’ve found something there before the rest of the clubs.

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    He's really interesting. Not 25 yet, so he could spend a year or two developing in the minors if needed. This Driveline place seems to be doing some good stuff. Maybe they could send CJ there for a refresher!

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    The majority are exactly that. A few exceptions are Alzolay, Steele, Marquez, Albertos, maybe Cruz depending on how he develops.
    They did draft Riley Thompson and Kohl Franklin last year, who both have higher upside.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    The only two pitchers that have gained more velocity out of college are Miller and Swarmer both without sacrificing control and both have more upside.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    Agreed 100% rbucato honestly I kinda questioned the strategy even in the moment some of these guys were drafted but I deferred to Theo and these guys because they know more than I do. I think they need to adapt as well when it comes to finding pitching Dylan cease was the highest upside pitching prospect they’ve drafted and he’s now considered a top 25 prospect by some publications

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    And I wish every Cub position player was the starter for every all star game hitting 30-40 HRs & getting on base at .395 or higher.

    McCleod will tell you They have drafted or signed guys who can throw heat... Maples & Norwood throw smoke... Bailey Clark & Estrada are mid 90s. Cease was traded. Underwood low-mid 90s, averaged 93 & topped out at 96 in his only MLB start. Alzolay, Marquez, Albertos, Moreno, Gallardo all IFAs that are mid or upper 90s.

    Of course there are a bunch that are low 90s. They are picking guys all across the spectrum hoping to get pitchers & not just throwers. There’s only one 1st round pick per team, except for St Louis who get 2 or 3, & in 2016 the Cubs didn’t even get a 1st or 2nd round pick.

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    On your last point that’s why I don’t really think the front office made some major gaffe when it comes to pitching. Aside from using essentially every top pick on hitters they also mainly signed top IFA guys that were positional players as well such as soler, gleyber torres, Eloy, Ademan, Amaya, etc. it’s not as if the team doesn’t have a good pitching staff let’s also keep in mind theos trades for arrieta and Hendricks mitigated the major need for pitching

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    True. And it’s not like stud pitchers who sit 94-96 w/good secondaries are not a dime a dozen in the draft, especially after the 1st round, let alone 2nd. Some of those guys fall, but there’s reasons they fall.... control &/or command, injuries, signability... Aces are called aces for a reason & they are hard to get. :o)

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