On Wednesday, August 15, the Blue Jays will play the third of a four-game set against the Kansas City Royals. Marco Estrada will end the run of rookie Jays starter when he pitches against a Royals rookie, Burch Smith.
Burch Smith was acquired in the same manner that Monday’s starter, Brad Keller, was acquired. Smith was selected in the 2017 Rule 5 draft the righty was selected sixth overall by the New York Mets out of the Tampa Bay Rays system. However, much like how the Royals acquired Keller from the Reds, KC agreed to send either cash or a player to be named later in exchange for Smith.
The former Tampa Bay Rays pitcher has had a fair amount of hardship for a still relatively young career. Amazingly, after undergoing two Tommy John surgeries, he completely missed most of the 2014 season, and all of the 2016 and 2017 seasons.
Adding insult to these injuries, the right-handed hurler was starting in the big leagues in the season prior to undergoing his first TJ surgery. While it was not a remarkable year, by any stretch, he had still made the majors and saw his dream slip away. For reference, the starter made 10 appearances—and logged 36 1/3 innings—in 2013, pitching to a 6.44 ERA and 5.47 FIP.
This season has not been any better for the former San Diego Padre. Through 30 appearances and six starts, he has posted a 6.97 ERA, 5.85 FIP, 1.599 WHIP, and 61 ERA+. Overall, he has been worth a worse than replaceable -0.7 fWAR.
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Smith does not offer a lot of variety in his pitching repertoire. This season he has mixed between a four-seam fastball, curveball, change-up, and sinker. However, the sinking-fastball has seen action just 1.1% of the time.
The big righty has fired home four-seam fastballs 62.27% of the time this season. The four-seamer is decently quick, maintaining an average speed of 93.69 mph. The heater has not done well this year, giving up a terrible .304 BAA and .544 SLGA. As well, the pitch has surrendered 24 walks and eight home runs.
The right-handed hurler has thrown his curveball 20.82% of the time this season. The hook has allowed a concerning amount of line drives this year. While the pitch has produced whiffs on just 22.35% of swings, it has allowed line drives 10% more, at a rate of 32.56% of balls in play. As a result, the big breaker has posted an awful .546 SLGA.
Smith completes his pitching repertoire with a change-up 15.82% of the time this season. The offspeed pitch has been his best pitch this year, surrendering a .245 BAA and .434 SLGA. The key area that the change lacks is swing-and-miss movement. Through 60 2/3 innings pitched this year, the change-up has produced just 16 strikeouts.
As one may guess from the slugging percentages against each of his pitches, the Kansas City starter gets hit quite hard. In fact, this season he has allowed hard contact 45% of the time—and soft contact just 13.3% of the time. Couple this information with his extreme 40.7% fly ball rate and his high ERA makes more sense.
The righty has produced a slightly above average amount of strikeouts this year, though. Through 30 games he has struck out batters at a 21.7% clip and 8.75 K/9. However, he has walked an above amount of batters, giving up the base on balls 11% of the time for a 4.45 BB/9.
In just six total at-bats, collectively, the Blue Jays have not come close to beating the Texas native. No batters on the current roster have ever earned a hit (Tulowitzki is one-for-two with a double), while four batters have gone hitless in one at-bat.
The Blue Jays have not drawn a difficult match-up, on paper, for Wednesday night’s game. However, in the past, the righty handled Toronto well. Marco Estrada will also look to make up for his last rough start against Tampa Bay.