Continuing our brief run of left handed pitchers in the top 30 countdown, number six on our list has that air of projectability. Unfortunately, however, projectability doesn’t always mean you can pitch:
Name: Matt Smoral
Position: Left Handed Pitcher
Date of Birth: 18/03/1994 (19)
Acquired: 1st Round (Compensation) of 2012 Draft ($2,000,000 USD)
High School: Solon High School, Ohio
Height/Weight: 6’8”/220 lbs
Awards and Accomplishments:
I don’t know, can’t find anything. Tallest guy in school maybe.
2012 Statistics and Analysis
In 2012, Smoral didn’t pitch.
Having committed to North Carolina, the projected mid-first rounder slid to the Jays at 50th due to a broken fourth metatarsal in his right foot. It happened during the spring of his senior year, so Smoral hadn’t pitched for about a year when he made his pro debut this season in the Gulf Coast League. Stats below:
What jumps out immediately is the wildness. In his 11.2 innings, he’s put twenty-four (??) hitters on base through walks or hbp’s. Wow. Still, you need to remember he missed an entire year. Not only that, but he has a whole new set of coaches, is more than likely focusing on his change up as per the Jays organizational philosophy, and may be refining his mechanics to cause the least amount of stress on his foot. This is going to be a process.
On the positive side of the ledger, he’s striking out over a batter per inning (although that may be due to batters cowering in fear) and his FIP of 7.14 is lower than the ERA. A product of nothing leaving the yard.
It’s tough to glean much from this video as it hardly looks like he is trying (solely pitching from stretch, with hardly any leg kick). Having watched a bit more video, it looks like some of the wildness is caused by some arm drag where he loses his release point. His action is mechanically quite simple, with a mid-to-low three quarters arm slot, so should be repeatable. It’s just a matter of Smoral finding an effective release point where he can hit is spots with any sort of consistency.
Pitch Arsenal Breakdown
All the scouting reports coming out of high school had Smoral’s fastball sitting at about 91/92 with the ability to get it up to the mid-90s when needed. I got some firsthand intel on were he’s been so far as a pro (see below tweets) which pretty much matches the earlier reports. Both fangraphs and baseball reference have him listed at 220 pounds. At 6’8″and only nineteen you would have thought there is some room for growth, both physically and on the fastball.
His secondary pitches are rated as average to above average. His change up gets good sink and sits in the low 80s. The slider sits around the same velocity as his change and can be an effective pitch, especially to right handers as he gets good run. It still needs a bit of work, especially to left handers, but if he can refine the slider he could potentially have three above average offerings which makes it easy to see him staying put as a starter.
I asked Chris King, the resident Gulf Coast League writer for Baseball Prospectus about Smoral’s pitches and wildness so far, below were the responses:
@CharlieCaskey first outing was really bad. No life on FB and was sitting 89-91. Didn’t throw the slider but maybe twice
— Chris King (@StatsKing) August 4, 2013
@CharlieCaskey also hit a couple arm side with his FB. So, he’s been wild in spurts but not all over the place
— Chris King (@StatsKing) August 4, 2013
I’d say that is pretty positive. This kid is going to have to walk before he can run, but it sounds like his progression has been a bit smoother than what some of the stats say.
Having missed 2012 I don’t even want to speculate on what his innings limit will be. I’d probably buy the under on sixty. If he continues to make headway with his secondary offerings and his velocity doesn’t suffer, I’d be willing to go out on a limb and say he ends up in Bluefield near the end of August. With the B-Jays 9.5 games up on the third place team in the Appalachian league East division, it’s hard to envision a scenario where they don’t make the playoffs. And, as the Jays have consistently maintained, any playoff experience for their prospects is good experience.
Risk, and ETA
The risk for Matt is like any Blue Jays pitcher. Tommy John. That’s terrible, sorry. I suppose the risk is that he can’t find a repeatable delivery that allows him to consistently throw strikes. You would have thought that with his size, and if at least one of the two off-speed offerings develop to anywhere near a major league level, then he will always have a place in the bullpen, but that’s not what the Jays drafted him and paid all that money for. Anything less than a number two or three starter will be considered a disappointment. Of course, if his stuff develops, than they have something on their hands….don’t say it, ok I will, Randy Johnson.
As for the ETA? Perfect world, if he gets a late Bluefield promotion this year, and does well. Then what? Maybe (and this is a huge maybe) an aggressive push to Lansing as a twenty year old in 2014. If all went well after that, then he’d see the Skydome near the back end of 2016 or beginning of 2017.
More realistically, I would say he’ll need to repeat a level somewhere, setting him up for a 2018 debut.