Letters of Intent
By Jay Blue
Blue Jays From Away
Throughout the month of May, this section will be completely free and it will introduce you to the type of content that you’ll be getting only at Blue Jays from Away. To begin with, our “Countdown to Baseball” series will feature one player listed in the projected roster post for that day. Following that, there will be exclusive content coming from Spring Training later in March! Today’s projected roster is the pitching staff for the Lansing Lugnuts and we’re going to featured a player who will probably be on the bubble to make Lansing’s roster:Evan Smith.
Coming out of Montgomery High School in Semmes, Alabama, big, 6-foot-5 lefty Smith had been on scouts’ radar for a couple of seasons but didn’t really make an impression until he added about five miles per hour on his fastball in his senior year. He flashed 88-92 mph velocity with good arm strength and some ability to throw a breaking ball but he was seen as pretty raw coming out of the draft.
Signing with the Blue Jays for $350,000 after getting selected by the Blue Jays in the fourth round of the 2013 draft, Smith has stepped things up in the Blue Jays organization, graduating from the Gulf Coast League in his second professional year. The big lefty only threw 12 innings with the GCL Blue Jays in 2013, allowing 10 earned runs on 15 hits and nine walks, striking out 10. Obviously, this wasn’t the best start to a pro career but for first-year players some adjustment is usually to be expected.
In 2014, Smith showed vast improvement after having attended the Fall Instructional League as well as regular spring training. He pitched very well in extended spring training, throwing 36 2/3 innings with a 3.48 ERA and a 1.24 WHIP, striking out 19.5% of batters and walking just 6.5%. Smith came out of the gate in 2014, still only 18 years old, throwing 12 innings with the GCL Blue Jays and only allowing two earned runs with 13 strikeouts and just three walks.
Moving up to Bluefield, Smith finished the season with another 40 innings, posting a 4.05 ERA and 1.35 WHIP with a 19.3% strikeout rate and 6.8% walk rate. Smith can probably get away with a strikeout rate hovering around the 20% mark, mainly because he induces a ton of ground balls, averaging over 2 ground outs per air out in 2014. His 2014 campaign earned him another stint in the Fall Instructional League and we’ll see how he comes out of the gate in 2015.
I saw Smith pitch in spring training in 2014 and his fastball sat in the 89-90 mph range, which is encouraging, considering that most pitchers don’t get up to their full velocity until later in the summer. He throws with a nice, easy arm motion and had a very nice curve in the 78-80 mph range. He also threw an 82 mph changeup that I saw him keep down when he threw it. From his pre-draft scouting reports, it looks like he’s added the changeup and he’s probably taken something off his slider to create more velocity separation between that and his fastball.
Smith, still just 19 until August, has been really under the radar but has the potential to break out in 2015. I think that, with two years of rookie ball under his belt, he could see time in Lansing this year, possibly after a stint in extended spring training, to help minimize his innings later in the season.
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Work has started on the 2015 edition of the Toronto Blue Jays Minor League Handbook. You can still purchase The 2014 Toronto Blue Jays Minor League Handbook, now available as an ebook at Smashwords.com, now at a reduced price of $2.99 US. You can purchase and preview the book at our Smashwords.com page!
The All-Star Break Supplement to the Minor League Handbook is also available at Smashwords.com for only $0.99 US! Get an update on how your favourite players did last season as well as a report on the 2014 draft!
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