Quick name the pitcher from the 2009 draft who has advanced the furthest in the Cardinals minor league system thus far. Shelby Miller? Nope. Actually, that recognition currently goes to Scott Schneider drafted in the 20th round, 609th overall. An unheralded pick out of St. Mary’s College in California, Schneider has fit easily into the Cardinals pitching philosophy of throwing strikes and getting groundballs.
In 2009, Schneider began at Batavia where he overmatched the young hitters striking out nearly a third of the batters he faced. He was quickly promoted to Quad Cities where he would again strikeout batters at an excellent clip, generate impressive groundball rates and display above average control. In 2010, Schneider returned to Quad Cities (joined in the rotation by Shelby Miller) and was promoted to Palm Beach at mid-season. After moderate success at Palm Beach, Schneider’s peripheral statistics (K-rate, GB rate) have both rebounded nicely as he begins the year in AA Springfield.
I had the opportunity to exchange some questions with Scott and his answers follow below.
Future Redbirds: I’d like to start back when you were drafted as a junior out of St. Mary’s College in California. The Cardinals selected you in the 20th round. Was it a hard decision to level college a year early to play professional baseball?
Scott Schneider: When my name was called on draft day I was very excited. Playing professional baseball had been a childhood dream and being given that opportunity would have been hard to pass up. My experience at St. Mary’s couldn’t had been better. I had great coaches, great teammates, and a great education. That being said, not everyone is given the opportunity to play pro ball. Although I knew I’d miss playing my senior year and finishing my degree, I knew that this was my chance to follow my dream of playing Major League Baseball.
FR: You’re in Springfield now and this has been a heck of a storm season for Missouri — do you miss the weather in California?
SS: You’re right. The weather so far has not been great. There has been quite a lot of rain, and cold weather. Not what I had expected, especially considering we are already in May. I wouldn’t mind having a few days of Southern California weather. Soon enough it will be hot and humid, so hopefully in between now and then the weather settle somewhere in the middle.
FR: After being drafted you began your pro career in Batavia. In 2010, you started at Quad Cities and were promoted to Palm Beach. You had good strikeout rates in the low minors but it seemed like the nights you were pitching well, it was when you were getting consistent groundouts rather than just racking up strikeouts. Is that a fair characterization of your success?
SS: I don’t think anything can prepare you for your first full season. It’s a long year, full of ups and downs. Last year, I started the season well in Quad Cities. I had a good feel of all my pitches and as a result I was able to maintain a decent strikeout rate as well as keep the ball on the ground. At the time of my promotion, I had been going through a little rough patch. I think my mechanics were a little inconsistent and I lost my feel of my slider. Fortunately, even though my command wasn’t as good as it was earlier in the season, I still had my sinker. I didn’t have my strikeout pitch, but I trusted my defense. [FR Edit: Schneider has had the good fortune of Ryan Jackson as his primary shortstop who might be the best defensive player in the Cardinals minor league system right now.] The hitters are more advanced in AA. They don’t chase as many pitches out of the zone so I rely on throwing my sinker to induce ground balls. When I get 2 strikes on a batter, I try and go for the strikeout, but I’ll gladly take more groundballs to go deeper in to games.
FR: I’d be skewered if I didn’t ask you to describe your pitching repertoire for us. So what’s the mini-scouting report on Scott Schneider — what types of pitches do you throw and what do you think is your best pitch?
SS: I throw a 4-seam fastball, sinker, slider, and changeup. Being able to throw all these pitches in any count has given me the chance to be successful. I don’t have a Shelby Miller fastball, but I try and pound the bottom of the zone with my sinker. My best pitches can vary from game to game. I typically say whichever pitch gets me the most outs is my best pitch, but sometimes that is my sinker, sometimes it’s my changeup, and sometimes it’s my slider.
FR: You were a two-way player through college so you’ve got experience as a hitter. Do you miss hitting at all? [FR edit: The Texas League in Double A utilizes a DH when the affiliates are interleague. Scott has only had 5 ABs thus far in 2011.]
SS: More than hitting, I sometimes just miss playing everyday. As a pitcher, in between starts can be kind of boring. Half the time, we are in the stands charting so you aren’t as involved in the game. I also think there is a little more anxiety as a pitcher just because there is so much time in between starts. It can be a long 5 days before your next start if you had a rough outing before. I do miss taking BP. That was the highlight of my day in college. We get BP before a start against a national league team, but when i saw (more like barely saw) three 97 mph fastballs go right past me against Tulsa, I was quickly reminded why I’m pitching instead of playing shortstop or third base. I’ve accepted it, but I’ll be a little disappointed if i don’t get a couple knocks this year.
FR: Who is the hitter you’d least like to face as a pitcher on your own team?
SS: That’s a tough question. Our team has some pretty darn good hitters and anyone of them can be a threat especially when they are hot. Obviously, Matt Adams is a big power threat. Alex Castellanos can be pretty dangerous up there too. Not to mention, when Tommy Pham and Ryan Jackson are going well they are tough outs. I can’t really tell you who I’d least like to face but I can tell you that I would most like to pitch against Ryan Jackson. We have a little history going back in to our college days and we are always going back and forth about how I know how to get him out and how he knows how to hit me. It would be a good battle to pitch to him again.
FR: The 2009 draft class started off with the Cardinals selecting Shelby Miller. You both played together at Quad Cities to start the 2010 season before you were promoted to Palm Beach. QC had a DH too but I’m assuming that you still had pitcher batting practice sessions on occasion. Who was the better hitter – you or Shelby Miller?
SS: Unfortunately, the one day we were scheduled to take pitcher BP in the Quad Cities, we had rain so it was canceled. If i were to take a wild guess, I’d say Shelby has me in a homerun derby. He only has about 50 pounds on me. However, I have more experience against better competition so while he may out-slug me,Ii think I could take him in batting average.
FR: Fans sometimes treat baseball players like baseball robots that just turn off after the game. So the next couple questions don’t have as much to do baseball as they do with just you. If you’ve got an offday during the season, what are you most likely to spend your day doing?
SS: If we can get an offday with some good weather, I will definitely be playing golf. I’ve be trying to get out with Tyler Henley and Casey Mulligan, but every chance we’ve had there’s been thunder and lightning. Other than that, I may spend an off day relaxing. Maybe playing some video games or playing my guitar.
FR: Read a book, play a video game or watch a movie – which do you pick?
SS: I’d probably choose to see a movie. I actually can’t remember the last movie I saw, but the last book I read was The Tipping Point, by Malcolm Gladwell.
FR: At St. Mary’s you were a pre-med major, do you ever wish you’d had an opportunity to complete your degree and if you weren’t in the minor leagues right now would we see you in med school?
SS: Absolutely. I’d love to have my degree finished, but this is the path that I have chosen for now. If/when the time comes when I have to move away from the game, I will have to evaluate my situation. Medicine is still something that I’m interested in and I’m pretty confident if I wasn’t playing baseball, I’d be trying to get in to med school.
FR: The last song you listened to off a playlist was . . .
FR: Obviously you enjoy baseball to have played it for so long on such a high level. Do you follow or play any other sports?
SS: I’m a big golfer in the offseason. I fool around with my parents saying baseball is my plan A, med school plan B, and professional golfer plan C. It is something that I’ve always loved to do and when I get the opportunity I try to get out and play.
FR: Thanks again for taking the time to answer my questions, Scott. We’ll be looking forward to seeing your name in the boxscore for Springfield each week. Best of luck during the rest of the season.
Scott Schneider’s next start (depending on when/how Maikel Cleto slots into the Springfield rotation) is Thursday, May 12th when NW Arkansas comes to town.