Paul Sewald was drafted by the Mets in the 2012 draft in the 10th round out of the University of San Diego. The right-handed reliever made his pro debut in spectacular fashion with the Brooklyn Cyclones. He had a 1.88 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and went 4 for 4 in save chances.
Paul would follow up his great debut with another good season in 2013 with the Savannah Sand Gnats in which he posted a 1.77 ERA, struck out 67 batters in 56 innings and didn’t allow a home run.
It was more of the same for the crafty closer in 2014 when he had a combined 1.92 ERA, struck out 69 in 56.1 innings and held opponents to a .200 average combined between St. Lucie and the Binghamton Mets.
The step up to Double-A can be the toughest but that didn’t phase Sewald as he posted arguably the best year of his career in 2015 with Binghamton. He pitched the entire season with the B-Mets and went 24 for 25 in save chances. He posted a career best in ERA (1.73), WHIP (0.86), and opponents AVG (.188). He was named to the Eastern League All-Star roster but didn’t play because he participated in the Pan-Am games for Team USA.
Surely the successful righty, that mostly sits 88-92 MPH with his fastball, would have trouble in the hitters haven that is Cashman Field and the Pacific Coast League. Nope, just another tremendous season for Sewald who was the Las Vegas 51s closer and had the second most saves in the PCL with 19.
Sewald posted a 3.29 ERA, which isn’t as bad as it looks when you consider the league average was 4.46 and he pitched 36 of his 65.2 innings at home. Sewald continued to be successful because he kept throwing strikes and kept striking people out (80 in 65.2 innings).
The Mets bullpen was starting to tire in September as injuries decimated the starting rotation forcing Rafael Montero and Gabriel Ynoa to make starts. Surprisingly, the highly successful Sewald didn’t receive a promotion to help the Mets down the stretch.
Now the Mets have a decision to make with Sewald. He needs to be added to the 40-man roster to protect him from upcoming Rule 5 draft on December 8th. It’s seems like a pretty clear cut choice to me to protect a guy with a career 2.20 ERA, 1.03 WHIP and 307 strikeouts compared to just 59 walks in 258 innings.
Paul has decided to take his talents to the Mexican Winter League this offseason to pitch for the Naranjeros de Hermosillo. He has five saves, 0.90 ERA, eight strikeouts and has yet to walk a batter in ten innings.
Sewald relies on precision control, great preparation (see below), pounding the strike zone, and a nasty slider that helps him get hitters out.
MMN – First off congrats on a great regular season and getting off to a good start in Mexico.
Paul – Thank you I really appreciate it! I finished really well and it’s carried over to pitching down here so I’m excited with how I’m throwing.
MMN – What was your motivation to pitch in the Mexican Winter League and how did it come about?
Paul – Well I had a couple of good reasons to play. Obviously, the money down here is a lot better than it is in the minor leagues. So that was a really nice incentive. Also, it just gives me another outlet to showcase myself as a pitcher. There’s plenty of scouts here and I have coaches from teams in MLB here so it’s a good chance for me to show what I can do and possibly give me another opportunity to play somewhere down the road.
MMN – What is it like competition wise, what level of the minor leagues would you compare it too?
Paul – I think the competition has been pretty good! I’ve seen plenty of guys I’ve faced over the years and a handful of guys with at least some major league time. So I would probably say maybe AA possibly some AAA lineups.
MMN – What is the travel like? Stadiums? Atmosphere at games? Do the american players stay in housing together?
Paul – Travel isn’t bad! The league is pretty spread out so most of the places we fly but there are a couple 3-5 hour bus trips too. Most of the stadiums are incredible. AAA type stadiums and the crowds are huge and exciting so that part has been great! They put the Americans up in a hotel together and so it’s easy for us all to be together.
MMN – You said playing in Mexico was in part to showcase yourself, is that because at the moment you aren’t on the Mets 40-man roster and thus could be exposed to the Rule 5 draft?
Paul – Yeah that is the main reason! Now I’m with the Mets and they have ownership of me and I want to play at Citi Field soon! So the 40-man roster with the Mets would be great but if they don’t put me on, then yes the main reason for me coming down here is to put myself out there in hopes to get picked in the Rule 5 in December.
MMN – Were you surprised that you didn’t get a promotion to the big leagues this year, especially in September?
Paul – I wouldn’t say “surprised” because nothing has ever been easy or given to me so I wasn’t expecting it! But was I disappointed? Absolutely! I felt like I’ve done enough to show them I’m ready for that next step by pitching well at every single level. I know I can pitch in the big leagues I just need an opportunity to show that I can!
MMN – Absolutely agree and let’s talk about how you were successful this year. Did you have to do anything different playing in the hitter friendly PCL to get hitters out?
Paul – The PCL, especially in Las Vegas, is such a hard place to pitch. You try to stick with what makes you successful to start with and that’s the only way you can approach it. I didn’t want to pitch scared or pitch away from contact just because it’s a good hitters park and league. The most important thing for me was to attack hitters and throw strikes no matter how the ball travels. And I think I did a good job of that whether I was pitching well or struggling and just stayed with that process.
MMN – Anyone who’s seen you pitch knows a lot of success comes from your great breaking ball. When did you learn to throw it, from who and has it changed at all over your time in the minors?
Paul – Yeah my slider is definitely my best pitch and my go-to! I learned it right after my freshman year of college before I went to summer ball. I struggled a lot with offspeed and my dad (Mark Sewald, 16th RD, 1979 by Boston Red Sox) had me try the way he threw it when he played. Instantly I found something I was comfortable with and could throw strikes and it was good. Honestly, I haven’t really messed with it much since then as it’s been successful ever since I learned it and so I’m confident in it and that’s the most important thing.
MMN – Some pitchers have said that the elevation in Vegas flattened their breaking ball, is that something you had trouble with or heard of from other guys on last years team?
Paul – Well it definitely had an effect on it yeah. I mean my numbers on the road were a lot better than at home and my breaking ball sharpness is a direct correlation to that so absolutely.
MMN – One of the knocks or question marks that scouts and fans have on you is your lack of velocity, what is your response to that?
Paul – Well it’s true I don’t throw as hard as most scouts and coaches want. It’s been the thing that’s held me back my whole life so I know that by now. I try to make up for it with above average spin rates, deception and location of it. And my numbers say that I’ve been successful doing that so I’m going to continue to do so, but I understand it’s easy for people to scout the radar gun and it’s unfair but that’s just the way it is.
MMN – Who passes along your spin rates to you?
Paul – Well I actually have a good friend from high school who works with sabermetrics scouting and he lets me know every once in a while how it’s going. But also TJ Barra (Manager of Baseball Research and Development) with the Mets sent me some info on it and some of the things the numbers say about my success with those spin rates.
MMN – What do you do to prepare for hitters you may face that night/in a series?
Paul – I have a book of all my at-bats facing every guy from each team. I keep track of the pitches, the speeds, the locations, the results. So then by those I’ll write any notes I saw in their swing or approach against me. Then before the series I’ll go read through and get a little reminder of each hitter so that I might have a better idea of how to attack them when I face any given hitter.
Paul – Well it’s exciting when you see your friends get to achieve their dream just like I’ve always dreamed about. It helped my confidence because I know if those guys are having success at the major league level I know I can too. So that helps a lot too.
MMN – Thanks again for answering all my questions Paul, and hope to see you in a Mets uniform soon.
Paul – Absolutely. Thanks for your support we really appreciate it! I hope so too. Soon would be great!