NEW PORT RICHEY, FL- Mitchell High School’s Patrick Schuster pitched his fourth consecutive no-hitter Monday, defeating Pasco High 5-0 in what was a festival atmosphere in New Port Richey. In a complex that can seat 150 comfortably, nearly 300 fans showed up as well as a myriad of reporters, camera men, and major league scouts. Doubling up Johnny Vander Meer is big news.
But the lanky, broad-shouldered 6’1” (as measured by MLSB), 170 lb lefty is not just a high school phenom, he’s an early-round pro prospect as well.
Schuster stretches the boundaries of conventional scouting because nothing about him is conventional. He has a stiff upright delivery with little drive coming from his lower-half. He doesn’t stay back. He throws a little secondary kick with his front foot before landing. He doesn’t follow through, and on some pitches finishes his delivery well across his body. It doesn’t look pretty and if you watched him in the bullpen playing catch, you might not think of Schuster as a pro prospect.
The game is a different story. If I have to win one high school game, right now, I’d pick Patrick Schuster over anyone else I’ve seen around the country. His command of both his 87-91 MPH fastball and his 74-77 MPH breaking ball (which I’m calling a slider) is major league caliber right now. He was given an oversized strike zone by the umpire and Schuster had the out-of-strike zone command to take advantage of it. It was an unfair matchup as no balls were hit with any authority off of Schuster. Of the 21 outs, 16 came on strikeouts. There were three groundouts and two flyouts. The three baserunners were on a walk, a hit-batsmen, and a dropped third strike (he had 17 strikeouts total).
The biggest concern I have with a pitcher who finishes their delivery so hard is that they usually can’t throw low strikes consistently. I’m not sure how, but Schuster throws low strikes better than any high school pitcher I’ve seen. He can pound it all day down there with both pitches. Schuster can also command the black and throw off the corners to get hitters to chase. His fastball has plus running movement and plus deception out of a low three-quarter slot. His 88 jumped on hitters better than a lot of 94s.
Schuster is not projectable in the truest sense, but I think he has a chance to maintain this type of velocity as a big league starter. Lots of high school pitchers actually go down in velo by the time they’re 24 because all of a sudden they have to pitch every five days over six months and work through injuries. When/if Schuster is put into that situation in rookie-ball this summer, his velocity is sure to drop. Nevertheless, when he physically matures down the road, I believe it will come back up to what it was on Monday, but over a longer season.
What Schuster has going for him in terms of projecting future velocity is a quiet head, a very quick arm, and an upper body that will get a lot stronger. While he’s solid in his lower-half, Schuster is lanky and rangy north of the waist. He has some width (and slope) to his shoulders and I think he’ll gain twenty-plus pounds of good weight and get to 190-200 when he’s matured.
For pure movement, I’d grade his big slider at a present 45, future 55. For command, I grade it as a present 55, future 70. Some will call it a curveball based on its velocity, but because he gets under it, it’s mostly a lateral-plane breaker. He got a lot of his 17 strikeouts with the slider and his ability to paint with it is precocious for a prep pitcher.
It was an ultimately dominating performance against a very good high school team in Pasco High. Mitchell won 5-0. Schuster’s line read 7IP, 0H, 0R, 17K, 1BB, 1HBP. After the final out, he raised his hands in jubilation as a dog pile formed on the mound. The fans went ecstatic and the cameras rolled.
Schuster is signed with the University of Florida and we had him ranked #194 last month. He’s moved up considerably from there and I can now see him solidly in the second round with compensation possibilities. It’s not typical for a high school finesse pitcher to be taken so high, especially one who throws so unconventionally. But Schuster is unusually polished and effective in the present day and he could get to the big leagues on the fast track.
There will be questions on durability because his delivery is so arm-oriented; the big leg and core muscles don’t get exploited. I give him more chance because he’s not a hard thrower. Though he touched 92 MPH a few times, his game is getting people out by location and changing speeds. I don’t think he’ll extend himself often for those extra miles because he “pitches”. That puts less strain on his shoulder and elbow.
I likened his style and approach to former St. Louis Cardinals ace John Tudor, who was a perennial Cy Young candidate in the 1980s. A veteran scout toned down my lofty comparison. “You want him to be John Tudor, but you should expect Randy Choate.” He was referring to the up-and-down situational lefty reliever who was most recently with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
It will be very interesting to see where he goes. If he does end up at UF, I think he’s an immediate weekend starter as a freshman and a very high draft as a junior.
PASCO HS NOTES: Pasco HS has an interesting centerfielder named Josh Johnson who has already declared that football is his preference and priority. He signed an NLI with Purdue to play just one sport and has indicated to the St. Petersburg Times that it would take “millions” to make him sign a professional baseball contract. The 5’10”, 180 lb righthanded hitter has a short stroke that would give him a chance to turn into an average line-drive hitter, but like the rest of the lineup, he couldn’t get a hold of any of Schuster’s pitches. I timed him home-to-first at 4.22 seconds in the first inning despite a stumble out of the box. He showed enough radar and agility to make center field a possibility all the way up, and a 40 arm that was plenty playable. He won’t get millions to sign this year, but I’d love to see him walk on at Purdue and play both sports. He might come on as a leadoff type…. Pasco shortstop Jacob Schrader has gotten follows from scouts. The big-bodied 6-2, 215 righthanded hitter has a little pop in his bat and a fairly short stroke. He’s physically matured and I’m not sure how much projection is left. Schrader’s actions on the infield could make him average defensively at third base in time. I haven’t seen that he’s signed anywhere, so he may very well end up a junior college player next fall.