Wednesday, June 17, 2015

JJ Schwarz: A Case for Team MVP

True freshman JJ Schwarz has been an absolute sensation among the Florida Gator faithful. A 6’1 catcher out of Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, Schwarz has done a great job at filling a gaping void left by predecessor Taylor Gushue, who was selected in the fourth round of the 2014 MLB Draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates. Although fellow true freshman Mike Rivera gets most of the starts behind the plate, the powerful bat of Schwarz has kept in the lineup every game this season.

Through 67 games in his freshman campaign, Schwarz has batted .331/.395/.641 with a team-leading 18 home runs and 73 RBI’s. He leads the Gators with 16 doubles and has the second-most hits on the team with 82. Schwarz has even showed off his wheels from time to time with three triples.

Schwarz has had pretty good plate discipline as he has drawn 26 walks and accumulated 44 strikeouts. Every time that I have watched him play, I see JJ swing at nothing but good pitches. As cliché as it is, in baseball if you want to be a good hitter you have to hit good pitches, and that is exactly what Schwarz has been doing.

When Schwarz does come in to catch on Rivera’s off days, he has been dynamic. His fielding percentage is .988 with 219 putouts, 21 assists, and three errors. Those who have tried to run on his arm have moderately been successful as Schwarz’s stolen bases allowed percentage is .800.

At the end of the day, however, fans in Gainesville flock to McKethan Stadium and watch the Gators to see Schwarz’s bat. To put JJ’s season in perspective, he has hit more home runs than Taylor Gushue did in his entire three-year Florida career (16) and is one behind Mike Zunino (19). Zunino hit 19 home runs twice in a single season in a three-year collegiate career.

Schwarz’s 71 RBI’s are also the most among Florida catchers in recent years as Gushue had 49 in 2014 and Zunino had 67 in both 2011 and 2012. One more thing, in a game against Stetson on April 7th, JJ hit four home runs and had 10 RBI’s. He is the ONLY Florida Gator baseball player to ever do this in school history!

JJ’s spectacular freshman season has not gone unrecognized. The National Collegiate Baseball Writer’s Association named him the 2015 Freshman of the Year. In the postseason, he earned SEC Tournament MVP after going 10 for 19 (.526) with six RBI’s and five runs scored. In the Gainesville Regional, he was named MVP after going 7 for 13 (.538). In the Super Regional against rival Florida State, he was named MVP after going 5 for 7 (.714) with two home runs.

Regardless if the Florida Gators win the National Championship or not, JJ Schwarz deserves to be the team MVP. He played a big role in leading the team to Omaha, and hopefully will help bring the program that elusive baseball National Championship before his three years (I am assuming) in Gainesville are over.

*All stats accredited to

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