6/15/22 : Spotlight Series - Anderson, McCollum & Schultz
Written by Steve Potter
In between writing the minor league roundups and weekly and monthly standouts I thought I’d intersperse a few player spotlights 😎 - perhaps some fellas you haven’t heard much about.
Today’s spotlight is on three relievers who have been experiencing standout success so far during the 2022 season.
From left to right ( top to bottom ) - Tommy McCollum, Andrew Schultz & Aidan Anderson - photos by Michael Dolcemascolo & Mark Wylie
RHP Aidan Anderson - Jersey Shore Blue Claws - 24 years old - signed as an un-drafted free agent 6/18/19 from McNeese State ( Louisiana ). He lives in Beaumont, Texas and was a 2015 graduate of West Orange Stark High School. He was signed by scout Mike Stauffer and his twin brother Grant pitches in the Texas Rangers organization, they were also college teammates.
Aidan was one of the pitchers who remained in Clearwater to support the big league club closing out spring training after the minor league spring camp had broken. He pitched a scoreless inning on April 6th in St Petersburg against the Rays.
After the big leaguers broke camp Aidan reported to extended spring where we saw him pitch in backfield games, I remember remarking that his fast ball looked quicker than we had seen before, shortly thereafter he was assigned to the Clearwater Threshers roster where he pitched in a couple of games before being promoted to Jersey Shore on April 27th which is where he also ended the 2021 season.
He’s been outstanding with the Blue Claws this season - in 13 games ( 18 IP ) his ERA is 1.00 and WHIP is 0.89. Aidan has struck out 15 batters and walked just one and has posted five saves in five opportunities. Featuring a sinker, slider and changeup with the sinker generally in the 91 to 94 mph range along with great command of the strike zone, a relentless attack approach and great pitch movement he’s established himself as a strong back end of the game option.
I asked him recently what he has learned in pro ball that’s different than in his college days and how did he stay patient this spring for the opportunity that eventually came. Aidan told me “Most of what I’ve learned is that you have to prepare and do things a lot differently than in college. Mainly because the season is much much longer and the ability to not lose my mechanics or how well I am able to execute pitches to these guys that I will face many time over the course of the season. As for extended spring training it’s tough sometimes but all I could do was wait and do whatever I could once I was called upon. And that’s all I tried to do when I was in extended, just do my best and hope to get sent out to a team.”
Over the course of his brief pro career to date he’s accumulated 100 innings in 61 games, always takes the ball and you can count on him making the opposition have to hit the baseball to beat him - they haven’t done so with great success - opposing hitters thus far have a .215 batting average. We met Aidan’s parents on the backfields of the complex back in 2019, it’s really cool to have a son as a pro baseball player, they have two ! That’s even cooler 😎
Aidan Anderson against Rays on April 6th - photo by Mark Wylie
RHP Tommy McCollum - Clearwater Threshers - 23 years old - signed as an un-drafted free agent 7/20/21 from Wingate University ( North Carolina ) by scout Kellan Mckeon. Resides in Clemons, North Carolina and was a 2018 high school graduate of Calvary Day School.
Tommy has appeared in 18 games this season with the Threshers ( 23 2/3 IP ) and has posted a 1.90 ERA and 1.06 WHIP. He’s been a dominant strikeout pitcher with 41 K’s. He throws a fastball, slider and splitter with velocity generally in the 94 to 96 mph range on the heater although we’ve seen it flash higher - upper nineties levels. When he’s commanding the zone he’s dominant but like many power pitchers control sometimes wavers a bit ( 15 walks this season ) - to date this season he’s been able to avoid outings where multiple walks occur, in 14 of his 18 appearances he’s issued one free pass or less, and in his last six appearances has issued no walks.
He was a member of a Division II national championship squad at Wingate in 2021 and had this response to when I asked what he’s learned in transitioning from college ball to the professional life - “ I’ve learned what works for me is to be ready day in and day out. It’s six days a week every week, in college it’s a couple hours a day, here it’s almost the whole day each day.”
When I researched Tommy’s collegiate career I noticed he had started a few games in summer collegiate leagues, as a former pitcher myself I was curious if there was a bigger adrenaline rush as a reliever, especially closing. Tommy said this “ I wouldn’t say a bigger adrenaline rush knowing the outings are shorter but the high leverage situations a reliever is put in. At the end of the day, I value my outings by - did I give my team a chance to win.”
With a 6’5” frame that provides the ability for an extended release point and the velocity on the fastball and “disappearing” break he gets on the splitter there’s been quite a few valuable outings for Mr. McCollum to date in his brief pro career. As a back end bullpen option where he’s converted four saves in four opportunities or in high leverage spots in games prior to closing he’s excelled - definitely has given his team a chance to win 👍⚾️.
Tommy McCollum - Photo by Mark Wylie
RHP Andrew Schultz - Jersey Shore Blue Claws - 24 years old - selected in the 6th round of the 2019 draft from the University of Tennessee and signed by scout Timi Moni. . Andrew lives in Knoxville, TN but was born in Atlanta, GA. He was a 2016 graduate of Greater Atlanta Christian High School.
Hitting triple digits with the fastball was something Andrew did regularly both in college and early in his career as a professional. In August of 2020 he underwent Tommy John surgery which caused him to miss the 2021 season - we first saw him back in game action during Fall Instructs of 2021 and he was back popping the mitt in the upper nineties. Andrew had a lot of folks excited during that instructs camp as there were indications he was back better than even before.
Spring training camp introduced game action and with it came the reality of competition. It’s a different venue and mindset in games opposed to training sessions. Andrew struggled a bit with command and control and that carried into the regular season where he opened up as the Jersey Shore closer. During the month of April he appeared in 6 games and while posting 7 strikeouts in 5 1/3 IP he also walked 7 batters. Things turned in May, a 2.25 ERA in 8 appearances ( 8 IP ) with 11 K’s and 2 walks and thus far in June the results are excellent ( 4 appearances - 0.00 ERA - 4 IP - 9 K’s ).
I asked Andrew what clicked as compared to spring camp and April - “ I’d say the main thing has been just feeling a lot more comfortable back in the games. The good health and clean mechanics play a part as well.” He features a fastball/slider combination primarily but also has a change up that he said “ I haven’t really had to use a ton as of late but definitely feel comfortable throwing as well.” The heater is a upper nineties ( 97-99 mph ) delivery that has touched triple digits once again and the slider is a wipeout weapon with run and a sharp break. He’s got a short arm delivery that jumps on hitters and makes it difficult to pick up - with the velocity and break he gets on his pitches Andrew can dominate and has to goods to advance to the top rung. It’s now just finding consistency - in his last outing ( yesterday ) he struck out the side in a perfect inning throwing 17 pitches - 12 for strikes - that’s what we envisioned back in Fall Instructs 😳 - comfortable and consistent - that sounds like a ticket to the show.
Andrew Schultz - photo by Michael Dolcemascolo