Last summer saw Sam Benschoter go undrafted after spending five seasons at Michigan State. The right-handed pitcher had his share of struggles for the Spartans, posting a 6.97 ERA in his career in 45 games that covered 124.0 innings. He walked 73 batters in that time, but he also struck out 143 of the 606 hitters he faced. The Cincinnati Reds liked enough of what they saw to sign him as a free agent after the draft and give him a chance. He only pitched in five games and threw just 9.0 innings after signing in 2021, but struck out 19 of the 38 hitters he faced and allowed just two earned runs.
After a bit of a tough outing the first time he took the mound this season in Daytona when he came out of the bullpen and allowed three runs on five hits in 2.2 innings, he got the start for the Tortugas last night in Palm Beach. The start couldn’t have possibly gone better for the recently turned 24-year-old. Benschoter came out and dominated the Cardinals. He fired 4.0 perfect innings and struck out seven batters. He threw just 50 pitches during the outing with 32 strikes. Of those 32 strikes he had 19 swinging strikes. That is an incredible rate of swinging strikes for a pitcher.
A few caveats here are that we are dealing with a very small sample size of time on the mound for Sam Benschoter and that the minor leagues are most definitely not the major leagues. With that said, the average swinging strike rate in the 2021 season at the big league level was 11.3%. Jacob deGrom led all pitchers with a 21.6% swinging strike rate among guys who threw at least 60 innings last season, and only three others topped 17%.
Last night saw Benschoter post a 38% swinging strike rate. Obviously that’s just one game and he most certainly had everything working for him from a control and stuff standpoint. The Florida State League offers up pitch tracking in most of their games and last night it showed that the righty was throwing his fastball, change up, slider, and curveball and he found success with all of them.
But it’s one thing to have a 38% swinging strike rate on a night in which you are at your best and everything is working. Looking back at his other (limited number of) outings, Benschoter has been missing bats at a high rate just about every time out. His first three games of his career took place out in Arizona as a part of the complex level Arizona Complex League Reds. That league does not publicly track pitch information – even stuff as simple as pitch counts. Benschoter did make two appearances at the end of the season in 2021 with Daytona, though. And he’s now made two appearances with them this season. In his four games he’s thrown 185 pitches and racked up 47 swings and misses. That’s a swinging strike rate of 25.4%. Small sample size, for sure, but that’s an elite rate of getting guys to swing and make no contact.
We will see how things play out as the season continues. Sam Benschoter is 24-years-old and pitching in Low-A, so he’s certainly older than a lot of the batters he’s facing. But he’s not exactly out there fooling them with smoke-and-mirrors, either. He’s been up to 95 MPH with his fastball and is throwing three different offspeed pitches.