by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
Drew Smyly has always been viewed as a high upside pitcher, though that doesn’t mean that there aren’t questions whether or not he’ll live up to the hype Just looking at the numbers from last season would make us wonder just how high the ceiling is:
167 Strikeouts (8.57 K/9)
49 Walks (2.52 BB/9)
31.3% Groundball Rate
Obviously there are skills that would bring hope, but at the end of the day a 4.88 ERA is a 4.88 ERA. There was some bad luck (67.7% strand rate), but it goes deeper than that. Now in Seattle, could those issues be wiped away?
As a fly ball pitcher, home runs were the big problem hanging over him. He posted a 1.64 HR/FB, and you have to think that pitching in the AL East played a role in the gaudy number (Tropicana Field’s 2.46 HR/game was right along the lines of the league average in the AL of 2.44).
He allowed 32 HR last season, with 14 HR coming over 70.0 IP against AL East opponents. That’s good for a 1.80 HR/9 against his division, and while no one is going to do backflips over a 1.54 HR/9 against the rest of the league at least it does represent some sort of an improvement. Of course, instead of routinely facing the Red Sox, Blue Jays and Orioles he instead gets to face the Angels and A’s, which should help.
Is a significant improvement coming? Probably not, but it doesn’t need to. Even with a HR/9 in the 1.15-1.25 range, the other skills would be enough to put him on the map.
No one is going to question his control (career 2.54 BB/9) and a 10.5% SwStr% shows the potential to maintain his strikeout rate and potentially improve it. Over the first half of the season he owned a 9.69 K/9, it was two sub par marks in the second half that helped to drag down the number:
Considering his career 8.71 K/9, those numbers stand out like a sore thumb. Couple it with the improvement in his strand rate and it all comes together to a nice package:
180.0 IP, 12 W, 3.85 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 175 K (8.75 K/9), 51 BB (2.55 BB/9)
Those are solid numbers, and ones that will bring value as a bounce back candidate. At the same time the hype train is going to be steaming full speed ahead, and that does bring reason to think that there won’t be draft day value. There’s upside, but the home run issues aren’t going to completely disappear and therefore his value is capped. Target him, but only within reason.
Sources – Fangraphs, MLB.com, ESPN, CBS Sports, Brooks Baseball
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