Prospect Review: Will Smith


Will Smith has a decision to make.

Which event is the highlight of his Royals career so far? There’s the 6.2 inning championship-clinching start in the Texas League Championship Series last season, or there’s the combined no hitter with Kelvin Herrera on July 19, where Smith took care of the first seven innings before passing it off to Herrera.

This winter, Smith barely snuck into our top 25 prospect rankings, mostly because I thought he was a good example of how Dayton Moore can find nice throw-in prospects in trades (as he was the “extra” tossed in with Sean O’Sullivan for Alberto Callaspo), but also because he’s shown strong control through his minor league career – and has a bit of upside too.


Entering 2011, Smith had a 1.9 BB/9 and while most of his 351.2 innings came at lower levels, even after a 2.5 BB/9 in Double A, his career walkrate stands at just 2.1 BB/9 in 513 innings.

Smith stands 6’5″ and has a smooth, simple delivery.  He’s not going to overpower anybody, but he overcomes that by having solid control, pitching inside (his favorite player is Bob Gibson) and getting more ground ball outs than air outs.  He’s added some velocity and tightened his curveball according to some reports too.

After spending most of 2010 getting shuttled up and down and back up again throughout the Angels system, the Royals parked him in Wilmington in High A until they brought him up for the Texas League Playoffs.  At Wilmington, he threw 54.2 innings over eight starts, striking out 51 and walking four.

That’s a neat trick.

His performance convinced the Royals to stick him in Double A all season, and he had a decent year after a rocky start.  In 161.1 innings across 27 starts, Smith compiled a 3.85 ERA and won 13 games – including his seven no-hit innings on July 19.

I had concerns coming into this year about Smith.  He’s only 22 years old and jumped from 115 innings pitched in 2009 to 163.2 in 2010.  Sometimes, that kind of spike can create injury problems the next year, but Smith not only served as a workhorse, he picked up steam as the year went on.

In every month from May to September, Smith simultaneously decreased his walk percentage while increasing his strikeout percentage.  Over his 14 second half starts, he carried a 3.18 ERA and had a 3-to-1 strikeout to walk ratio.

Smith’s next step depends on the other arms in the Royals system.  If Mike Montgomery and Chris Dwyer (who is mentioned in the list of potential spring training invitees) start the year in Omaha, Smith will probably bide his time in Northwest Arkansas until one of them gets promoted. Barring injury or collapse, he should see about 20 starts in Omaha if not more. He may even be a September spot starter depending on how things work out.

 

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  • royal_in_cincinnati

    I really liked the way Smith came on this year. I believe I read a report that he is a slider pitcher, and the team was not allowing him to use it early on. Could that be a possible reason for more strikeouts? It really depends on what the Royals think of 2012. Is it another year waiting, or are they competing? Smith would be a good stop gap starter if Monty or Dwyer or Odorizzi isn’t “quite” ready. I like Smith, but I don’t think he has anything more than back of the rotation stuff.

    The Royals have a TON of middle to back of the rotation options going forward. They really need Monty/Odorizzi/Lamb/Duffy/Dwyer to step up and be the #1/2 going into 2013-18. Then Smith/Marks/Arguelles/Teaford/Mendoza are all options for back end starters. With Hoch/Paulino and any FA/Trade filling in the middle. The offense and defense are ready now, but the pitching is lagging. They really need to learn how to develop front of the rotation pitching if they want to compete for any extended period of time.

  • royal_in_cincinnati

    I really liked the way Smith came on this year. I believe I read a report that he is a slider pitcher, and the team was not allowing him to use it early on. Could that be a possible reason for more strikeouts? It really depends on what the Royals think of 2012. Is it another year waiting, or are they competing? Smith would be a good stop gap starter if Monty or Dwyer or Odorizzi isn’t “quite” ready. I like Smith, but I don’t think he has anything more than back of the rotation stuff.

    The Royals have a TON of middle to back of the rotation options going forward. They really need Monty/Odorizzi/Lamb/Duffy/Dwyer to step up and be the #1/2 going into 2013-18. Then Smith/Marks/Arguelles/Teaford/Mendoza are all options for back end starters. With Hoch/Paulino and any FA/Trade filling in the middle. The offense and defense are ready now, but the pitching is lagging. They really need to learn how to develop front of the rotation pitching if they want to compete for any extended period of time.

  • jim fetterolf

    Given that the top five names you mentioned are about 12 years old, I think the Royals are doing a fine job growing a rotation in-house. This year was the year of the rookie position player and rookie bullpen pitcher, next year will be of the starting pitcher. Duffy, Monty, and maybe Dwyer start the year with the team and JaKKKKe comes up in July, since I don’t think Chen is resigned now that he’s a Type B FA.

  • jim fetterolf

    Given that the top five names you mentioned are about 12 years old, I think the Royals are doing a fine job growing a rotation in-house. This year was the year of the rookie position player and rookie bullpen pitcher, next year will be of the starting pitcher. Duffy, Monty, and maybe Dwyer start the year with the team and JaKKKKe comes up in July, since I don’t think Chen is resigned now that he’s a Type B FA.

  • michael.allen.engel

    I’d read something at some point about the slider, but for the life of me, I couldn’t track it down before I posted this.

    That would definitely help him strike more batters out – one more pitch to adjust to. Could also explain his improved numbers as the year went on, while he got a better feel the more he threw it.

    I could definitely see him as a “placeholder” until the Lambs, Dwyers, Odorizzis of the world end up in the rotation, with upside to do some damage of his own.

  • michael.allen.engel

    I’d read something at some point about the slider, but for the life of me, I couldn’t track it down before I posted this.

    That would definitely help him strike more batters out – one more pitch to adjust to. Could also explain his improved numbers as the year went on, while he got a better feel the more he threw it.

    I could definitely see him as a “placeholder” until the Lambs, Dwyers, Odorizzis of the world end up in the rotation, with upside to do some damage of his own.

  • Ethan Evans (Royals Trenchfighter)

    I saw him pitch at a Spfld Cardinals game this year and he got rocked, but I’d like to see how he progresses this offseason.

  • Ethan Evans (Royals Trenchfighter)

    I saw him pitch at a Spfld Cardinals game this year and he got rocked, but I’d like to see how he progresses this offseason.