As Noah Schultz recounts it, he was not trying to throw particularly hard. But the velocity also did not come out of the blue.
His eye-opening outing two weeks ago was just the latest true tall tale of Oswego East’s 6-foot-9 senior lefty, who seemingly overnight went from the skinny kid brother of two softball stars to one of the hottest high school pitching prospects in the country.
When Schultz toed the rubber on March 22 at Lockport for the first time with his high school team in almost a year, watchful eyes of some 30 scouts followed him. Radar guns raised up and came back down with numbers that Schultz hadn’t seen before.
He was hitting 94-96 mph with his fastball, with one scout clocking him at 97 and another at 98.
“Last summer I hit 94 once, and that was it. In my bullpens, one of them, I threw 93-94. I was kind of expecting in game adrenalin I could get one or two [mph],” Schultz said. “I’m not trying to throw it hard. But it’s cool to have that in my back pocket.”
That data point, and a refined changeup that Schultz struck out two batters with at Lockport has Schultz climbing up the prospect rankings. Perfect Game USA this week had Schultz as the No. 5 high school prospect nationally in the Class of 2022.
Baseball America in its most recent MLB Mock Draft had Schultz going to the New York Mets with the No. 11 pick in the first round, a jump of eight spots from its previous projection. Others have Schultz being selected with the fifth pick by the Washington Nationals or 24th by the Boston Red Sox.
All those, of course, are far off hypotheticals three months down the road.
Schultz, who grew six inches the summer before his freshman year, six more before his sophomore year and committed to pitching powerhouse Vanderbilt before his junior season, is just enjoying the life of a high school senior with his Wolves’ teammates.
“It’s just cool, being around the team, being a good teammate, supporting my friends on the team, fun being around the game,” Schultz said. “I love everything about baseball and helping in any way possible.”
Schultz, Illinois’ No. 1-ranked senior in the preseason by the Prep Baseball Report, has not seen a ton of the varsity mound at Oswego East. He made a dazzling debut last April, striking out 10 in four shutout innings against Waubonsie Valley, but was limited to 10 innings last spring.
The day after the Lockport game he came down with a sore throat, went to the doctor the next week and was diagnosed with mono. He has no symptoms now, but with mono’s potential affect on the spleen Schultz can’t do anything until May 3.
“I’ll do whatever I can to help the team in the meantime,” he said.
Noah Schultz’s slider is arguably the singular best pitch of the 2022 high school class. His 6’9” frame and sidearm slot creates an incredibly tough angle for hitters, and he spins the heck out of it with an insane amount of horizontal movement. pic.twitter.com/fJAjXnxTpH
— Kyle Kishimoto (@kylemoto10) November 3, 2021
While he’s playing the waiting game this spring, Schultz became a household name in scouting circles last summer.
On the circuit with other nationally-ranked guys, he pitched at MLB parks Coors Field, Tropicana Field and Petco Park, and didn’t allow a run in any of them. He’s not one to shrink in the spotlight.
“I don’t get stressed out,” he said. “I had a coach when I was younger, it’s something my dad brings up, I was 9 or 10 and he would come out and the whole team would be nervous and I would be cool. It was fun to be on the big stage, in front of a bunch of people and getting to see the life.”
At the Perfect Game All-American Classic in August at Petco, home of the San Diego Padres, Schultz struck out two and didn’t allow a hit in an inning, hitting 93 on the gun.
He also got to mingle with big-league stars Eric Hosmer and Bryce Harper.
“It was kind of cool to soak it in, just seeing the guys and seeing how seriously they took it,” Schultz said.
Schultz’s meteoric rise from a kid who threw 76-79 just three years ago is a surreal one. But he does possess the profile of a pitcher that scouts drool over and fits right in at a Vanderbilt program that’s produced the likes of Walker Buehler and Sonny Gray.
His 6-foot-9 frame hearkens to ex-big leaguers Randy Johnson and Andrew Miller. Scouts seem to love his repeatable delivery, and a low three-quarters arm release that Schultz developed with pitching coach Mark Sheehan from Evolution Athletics.
Schultz features the high-spin slider, close to 3,000 rpms, that is the rage in baseball, and his fastball velocity is up from 89-92 last spring. But his biggest growth this past year could be the development of his changeup as a third pitch.
“Last summer I had like four or five different grips, didn’t feel comfortable, it changed frequently. At the end of the fall I talked to my pitching coach and said I need to stick to a grip and throw it. That was my main focus in the offseason,” Schultz said. “Instead of having two pitches and hitters being able to guess 50/50 I have three. I don’t want people to assume with two strikes I’m throwing the slider. Now there’s two guesses, and three is the fastball. It’s just another thing to help the team win.”
First-year Oswego East coach Brian Schaeffer will take it, whenever Schultz is able to return to a high school mound.
“Definitely saw an uptick in his velocity at Lockport,” Schaeffer said. “His slider is just so devastating, he has improved control of his changeup and being able to locate his fastball in and out. When he’s healthy, it will make us that much more dangerous.”
Source: The Daily Chronicle