When a few of us put together our individual Top 50 Padre prospect lists before this site launched, Jesse Scholtens wasn’t on anyone’s Top 30 (ended up #35 on our consensus list). He wasn’t in my Top 50 at all!
A complete game last Thursday in Scholtens’ sixth start this year for the High-A Lake Elsinore Storm to drop him to a 2.61 ERA at the level, following six starts at Low-A Fort Wayne with a 2.45 ERA and more than a strikeout per inning, has the 23-year-old righty surely moving his way up those lists.
A ninth-round pick in the Padres’ 2016 draft after pitching for Wright State (and University of Arizona and juco Diablo Valley College in the Bay Area before that), Scholtens signed for a mere $1,000 bonus and has outperformed many of those drafted ahead of him.
His ERA, strikeout totals and lack of walks have been impressive on their own, but his ability to go deep into games might be his most impressive attribute — his 9-inning complete game was the first in the Cal League this year and he has three other games already this year in which he has pitched 7 or more innings. In comparison, San Diego’s top 2016 draft pick and Scholtens’ Lake Elsinore teammate Cal Quantrill has not gone past six innings once (though it should be mentioned that the Padres are undoubtedly monitoring Quantrill’s pitch count due to the Tommy John surgery he underwent in 2015).
So what is Scholtens doing to have success? He has a three-pitch mix of fastball, slider and changeup, and has good fastball command. At both Fort Wayne and Lake Elsinore this year, the righty has had reverse splits, having more success getting lefties out (1.64 ERA vs. LHP at Lake Elsinore compared to 3.94 vs. RHP). That might just be small sample size statistical noise since nothing in his repertoire indicates he will dominate lefties more than righties.
In any event, if San Diego is going to be competitive in a couple of years, it’s not going to necessarily be because of the top picks or international signings, it could very well be unsung guys like Scholtens stepping up and pitching well above their pay grade. The Padres surely think it has been $1,000 well spent so far.