There is always a market for left handed pitching and a solid young lefty is worth his weight in gold. That is what the Blue Jays hope they have in Evan Smith.
We continue our top-30 rankings with a look at the Blue Jays fourth round pick in the 2013 MLB Amateur Draft, Evan Smith. Yesteday, the list began with outfielder Freddy Rodriguez coming in at number 30.
Name: Evan Smith
Position: SP Age: 19
Height: 6’5″ Weight: 190lbs
Bats/Throws: R / L
Acquired: Fourth round pick, 119 overall (2013)
During the 2014 season, Smith looked like a potential player to watch in the Blue Jays system. Across two levels, both in the Rookie Leagues, he posted a solid 3.46 ERA and a 1.308 WHiP, striking out 47 batters against 15 walks in 52 innings of work. At age 18, that command and ability to handle competition that, on average, was more than two years older than he, truly impressed.
Last sesaon, Smith took a step backwards in his development. Promoted to the Vancouver Canadians of the Northwest League, Smith posted a 4.71 ERA with a 1.631 WHiP, with 27 strikeouts against 18 walks in 49.2 innings. That ERA could have been worse, as he had a 5.09 FIP and allowed nine unearned runs.
So, aside from the level of competition, what changed for Smith? The most notable change is that Smith, quite simply, was not fooling anyone. His strikeout rate dropped to 12% while his walk rate increased to 8%. Meanwhile, even though his batting average on balls in play against did not increase significantly, opponents improved their batting average against Smith from .253 in 2014 to .307 in 2015.
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That is not to say that Smith did not have some positive moments. During a two game stretch, on July 16 and July 21, he pitched a combined eleven shutout innings, allowing only five hits and three walks while striking out ten batters. However, taking those starts out, Smith allowed 58 hits with 15 walks and 17 strikeouts in his other 38.2 innings. Those are not the numbers of someone that would be a legitimate prospect.
However, these eventual struggles may not be that much of a surprise. When Smith was drafted, it was thought that he may need to overhaul his delivery, and he was primarily a two pitch pitcher. These struggles could be a combination of Smith attempting to refine his changeup and with different mechanical tweaks that may be needed.
It is easy to see the potential that he has. A lefty with a fastball that can touch the low 90s, Smith may be able to add a few more miles per hour as his frame fills out and his mechanics are tinkered with. Should this happen, Smith could find himself going from the possible non-prospect that he appeared to be last season to a pitcher that could be a part of the Blue Jays future.
The 2016 season may be a pivotal point in Evan Smith’s career, as he looks to re-establish himself among the Blue Jays prospects. Should he rediscover his form from 2014, he is likely to climb these rankings. Otherwise, he may end up as minor league filler.