Kings of Kauffman Prospect Rankings: #24 Will Smith

Who: William Michael Smith
DOB: 7/10/1989 – Newnan, Georgia
Position: LHP
Height: 6’5″
Weight: 235
Bats: Right
Throws: Left
Acquired: Traded with Sean O’Sullivan for Alberto Callaspo 7/22/10

Rankings:
~ Baseball America NR
~ Royals Prospects: #34
~ Royals Review #24
~ Kevin Goldstein: #19
~ John Sickels #25 C+

Stats*:

Year Age Tm Lev W L ERA G IP WHIP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 K/9 K/BB
2008 18 Orem Rk 8 2 3.08 16 73.0 1.082 9.0 0.7 0.7 9.4 12.67
2009 19 Cedar Rapids A 10 5 3.76 20 115.0 1.157 8.5 0.9 1.9 7.4 3.96
2010 20 4 Teams 9 9 4.62 27 163.2 1.393 10.0 1.0 2.5 7.1 2.83
2010 20 Wilmington A+ 4 1 2.80 8 54.2 0.951 7.9 1.0 0.7 8.4 12.75
2010 20 Cucamonga A+ 2 2 4.58 6 37.1 1.312 8.7 1.0 3.1 7.5 2.38
2010 20 Arkansas AA 1 2 7.23 4 18.2 2.250 15.9 1.4 4.3 3.9 0.89
2010 20 Salt Lake AAA 2 4 5.60 9 53.0 1.604 11.0 1.0 3.4 6.8 2.00
3 Seasons 27 16 4.02 63 351.2 1.251 9.3 0.9 1.9 7.7 3.96
A+ (1 season) 6 3 3.52 14 92.0 1.098 8.2 1.0 1.7 8.0 4.82
A (1 season) 10 5 3.76 20 115.0 1.157 8.5 0.9 1.9 7.4 3.96
AA (1 season) 1 2 7.23 4 18.2 2.250 15.9 1.4 4.3 3.9 0.89
Rk (1 season) 8 2 3.08 16 73.0 1.082 9.0 0.7 0.7 9.4 12.67
AAA (1 season) 2 4 5.60 9 53.0 1.604 11.0 1.0 3.4 6.8 2.00
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/31/2011.

*Baseball-Reference’s stats don’t include two postseason starts Smith made for Northwest Arkansas.  He combined for 12 IP, 14 H, 10 K, 3 BB and 3 ER in those two starts.

If Tim Melville represents the Royals draft approach of the past few years, I think Will Smith is representative of Dayton Moore’s ability to get quality throw-in prospects for marginal players.  While Sean O’Sullivan is young and still might be useful some day, if the Alberto Callaspo is anything more than a blip on the transaction radar, it’ll be because of Smith.

His career ERA doesn’t really do him justice, as the Angels took a peculiar route in assigning him to their minor league affiliates.  Before the trade, he’d been pitching in Triple A and while players have performed worse, it wasn’t the level for him.  Yet.  He performed even worse in four Double A starts, but he turned things around after the trade.

Smith is a big kid, coming in at 6’5″ 235 lbs.  He doesn’t have electric stuff, but he’s got the demeanor and approach that will get him to the big leagues some day.  Smith mixes a fastball that hangs around the low 90s and has some sink to it with a curve that he can change speeds with.  He’s still working on a changeup to complement those pitches, but it’s his ability to mix up his repertoire and hit both sides of the plate that really brings him success.  For a pitcher his age, he has very good control, as his career 1.9 BB/9 demonstrates.

Back in August, I had meager expectations for Smith but to my surprise, he was promoted in time for the Texas League playoffs and made two starts, including getting the championship clinching victory with 6.2 innings of scoreless pitching.

I’m probably a bit higher on Smith than many.  I really like his control and as he develops his other pitches, that will help make up for what he lacks in big time stuff.  He’s a little like the Bizarro Tim Melville.  Melville has excellent “stuff” according to scouts, but can’t harness it yet.  Smith has command of his pitches but there’s not much sizzle there.  Still, there’s a spot for a left-handed pitcher who can throw strikes on any baseball roster.

That’s also not to suggest that Smith can’t adapt – the Angels director of scouting development Abe Flores discussed how Smith had added some velocity to his fastball and tightened his curveball just before he was traded to the Royals.

Smith seems like a smart, heady pitcher and mentioned that his idol is Bob Gibson.  While he doesn’t have Gibson’s stuff, he does take the mentality that the plate is his to command.  With his control, that kind of approach could serve him well.

While I love his control, I also really like Smith’s mechanics.  He’s got as simple a delivery as you can find these days.  It’s easy, repeatable and hardly has any extra motion.  He brings the glove and ball down to his belt just before his leg kick, but that’s it.  He makes it look effortless and that can help him avoid injury down the line.

If there’s a concern going into 2011 with Smith it might be that he had a pretty heavy workload for a pitcher at his stage of development.  He missed some time in 2009 due to a hamstring pull and lower back problems.  Then in 2010 he pitched 163.2 innings before joining the Naturals and tacking on another 12 innings.  That’s a lot of work for a 21 year old these days.  That might also hint at the type of prospect the Angels saw him as – an organizational warrior who could take some innings and had a shot at turning into something.  The Royals, for their part, didn’t seem to limit him either and it may not even become a concern.  Smith’s got the kind of frame that seems like he’ll be a durable left-handed option.

Smith should start 2011 in Northwest Arkansas and has a chance to see time in Omaha, but will probably end the season as one of the Naturals best starters once Mike Montgomery, Danny Duffy and perhaps Chris Dwyer and John Lamb move up to the Storm Chasers.

Will Smith is the first pitcher shown in the following two videos.  I think they demonstrate how he mixes up pitches and location:

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