Next up is a prospect from the Toronto Blue Jays that defines the term “projectable”. Matt Smoral is a towering left-hander who was ranked #6 on last year’s top prospects list but tumbles to #15 after a rough first season in the Gulf Coast League. His ceiling remains high and he finished 2013 on a strong note, which is hopefully a good sign for the young pitcher going forward.
Name: Matt Smoral
Position: Left-handed Pitcher
Date of Birth: 3/18/1994 (19)
Acquired: Supplemental first round draft pick in 2012 draft ($2,000,000 USD)
High School: Solon HS (Solon, OH)
College: None (Had commitment to UNC)
Height/Weight: 6’8″/220 lbs
Awards and Accomplishments:
- 2012 Rawlings First Team High School All-American
- 2012 Rawlings/Perfect Game – All Regional First Team (Central)
- Ranked #6 on 2013 Jays Journal Top Prospects
Stats and Analysis:
Smoral suffered a stress fracture to his foot during his senior season in high school, which led to the projected mid-first round pick sliding to the Blue Jays at 50th overall. He expected to go to college at that point but the Blue Jays gave him first round money with a $2 million signing bonus for him to forego his commitment to North Carolina.
He didn’t make his professional debut until 2013 and in limited work he was notoriously wild. In 25.1 innings for the Gulf League Jays he walked 26 batters, hit another ten and threw six wild pitches. He did have 27 strikeouts and when he was near the strike zone missed bats, which was an encouraging sign if the towering lefty can learn to harness his control.
Whether or not the missed time affected him is unknown but he started to shake off the rust a bit late in the season. In his last three starts, which spanned 10 innings, he allowed only three earned runs, six hits, and four walks (plus two HBP) while striking out ten. It was probably his most consistent stretch of the season and was a nice finish to an otherwise bumpy first year.
Video Credit: MLB Prospect Portal
Smoral throws from a relatively low 3/4 arm slot and has a fluid, low effort delivery. In comparison to video footage of him in high school, he has toned down his leg kick significantly since pitching in the Gulf Coast League. It helped give him better balance and a more consistent landing point and the mechanical change is possibly one reason why his control was so erratic this year. Charlie Caskey also picked up some arm drag Smoral, which affected the consistency of his release point. However he has great arm action and should become more comfortable a more efficient delivery with more time.
Pitch Arsenal Breakdown
Smoral’s fastball sits in the low 90’s with good arm side run. His smooth delivery and arm action makes it seem even faster to opposing batters. It’s rated as an above average pitch that will touch 95 MPH and if his big frame grows into some extra velocity it could very well turn into a plus pitch.
He compliments the fastball with two at least average or better off-speed offerings, a slider and changeup. His slider will flash plus and when it’s on will have sharp, late break. He struggles to control or command his breaking ball but it could become a strikeout pitch at the major league level. He also has a good feel for his changeup, which features late sink and good fade but is probably more of a pitch in development than a true third offering at this point.
Risk, Outlook and ETA
Smoral remains the projectable risk that he was when the Blue Jays drafted him but I wouldn’t read too much into his generally poor first season of professional baseball. He was coming off an injury in 2012, which made the adjustment to having to face much more talented hitters even more difficult. The walks and lack of control are concerning but he slowly appeared to be getting better as the season wore on.
I doubt the Blue Jays have Smoral repeat in the Gulf Coast League as a 20-year-old, it’s possible but more likely I think he starts with Bluefield after an extended spring training. He’ll likely need at least a full season at the Advanced Rookie level and will hopefully earn a call-up to Vancouver in September. He’ll likely get his first shot at full season ball in Lansing in 2015 and is probably looking at 2018 as his earliest ETA with the Blue Jays.
There are still plenty of reasons to remain optimistic about Smoral. If the control then command suddenly click he has the potential reach his ceiling as #2 or #3 starter. If they don’t, he could struggle but as a lefty likely still has enough pure stuff to pitch out of the bullpen.