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2007 Bullpen Preview: Joe Smith

Mike SteffanosTuesday, January 30, 2007
By Mike Steffanos


Joe Smith was the Mets third round pick last season out of Wright State University. He's a right-handed sidearming relief pitcher, and projects to fill a Chad Bradford type role in the major leagues. What separates Smith from normal sidearmers like Bradford is that he is able to combine the tricky arm angle with 90+ velocity. Here is a scouting report on Smith from Baseball America after the draft:

Smith is one of the more improbable success stories in college baseball. He had shoulder surgery as a high school senior in 2002 and couldn't crack the Wright State roster in his first year at college. When he made the team as a walk-on in 2004, he used a high three-quarters arm slot and pitched at 85-87 mph. After Rob Cooper took over as head coach before the 2005 season, new assistant coach Greg Lovelady suggested Smith drop down to a sidearm delivery. That usually adds movement and subtracts velocity, but Smith's fastball now sits at 88-91 mph and reaches 94. He also throws a nasty slider and his changeup has improved this spring as well. Hitters have trouble picking up his pitches, as evidenced by his regular-season 0.75 ERA--which would lead NCAA Division I if he weren't five innings short of qualifying. Smith could move quickly as a pro reliever.

The Mets signed Smith and sent him to Brooklyn to begin his pro baseball career. Smith dominated at that level, earning him a late season promotion to AA-Binghamton. He continued to dominate right-handers at that level, but had some difficulties against lefties. Still, considering that it was the end of a long year that started with a full season of college ball and ended in Double-A, it was a remarkable first season for Smith. Here are his overall numbers for last year and his lefty/righty splits:

Joe Smith 2006 Minor League Stats
Team Games Innings Hits/9 K/9 BB/9 HR/9 ERA AVG OBP SLG 
Brooklyn (A-) 17 20 4.5 12.6 1.4 0.0 0.45 .141 .218 .183
Binghamton (AA) 10 12.2 8.5 8.5 7.8 0.7 5.68 .267 .421 .356
2006 Totals 27 32.2 6.1 11.0 3.9 0.3 2.48 .190 .304 .250

Joe Smith RH/LH Splits
  Innings Hits/9 K/9 BB/9 HR/9 AVG OBP SLG 
Brooklyn (A-)
vs. RHB 11.2 3.9 13.1 0.8 0.0 .119 .146 .143
vs. LHB 8.1 5.4 11.9 2.2 0.0 .172 .250 .241 

Binghamton (AA)
vs. RHB 9.0 2.0 11.0 8.0 0.0 .080 .303 .080
vs. LHB 3.2 24.5 2.5 7.4 2.5 .500 .583 .700 

Total 2006 Both Levels
vs. RHB 20.2 3.0 12.2 3.9 0.0 .104 .241 .119
vs. LHB 12.0 11.3 9.0 3.8 0.8 .306 .393 .429 

Let's take a look at some scouting reports on Joe Smith from after his inaugural pro season. Baseball America had Smith ranked as the number nine prospect in the Mets system:

Strengths: Smith is unique because he throws much harder than typical sidearmers, and his 89-91 mph fastball has sinking, fading action. It tops out at 94. He stays on top of an 81-83 mph, two-plane slider that destroys righthanders. They hit just .104 against him in pro ball.

Weaknesses: The key to Smith reaching his ceiling is his changeup. He never needed it in college, but he does in pro ball to keep advanced lefthanders honest.

The Future: If he can make his changeup an average pitch, Smith should be an excellent setup man. Without it, he'd be just a righthanded specialist.

Here's a small portion of Scout.com's report on Smith:

Averaging over ten strikeouts per nine innings in both his college career and as a professional thus far, some may get the misconception that Smith is looking for the strikeout. He actually is on the mound to induce ground ball outs with his sinking two-seam fastball and sliders. He gets over twice as many ground ball outs as he does fly outs, and while he will strike out his fair share of batters, he is looking to get contact on the mound and get out of the inning in as few pitches as possible. The only thing standing in his way in realizing his full potential is better command of the wicked movement he gets with his pitches.

Although Smith's delivery is more of a sidearm style rather than the extreme submarine delivery of Chad Bradford, his velocity and movement enable him to give right-handed batters fits. The Mets have pushed him hard, and are likely to continue to do so. With some organizations, Joe Smith would have a chance to win a bullpen job out of camp. He's already demonstrated that he can get right-handers out at the Double-A level, although his control would have been better. While I think he has a slight chance to win a job with the Mets, I think it's more likely he starts the year in Binghamton or New Orleans. It's conceivable; however, that we could see him in New York before the season is over.


2007 Bullpen Previews:
Jon Adkins
Adam Bostick
Ambiorix Burgos
Marcos Carvajal
Pedro Feliciano
Aaron Heilman
Guillermo Mota
Clint Nageotte
Juan Padilla
Chan Ho Park
Duaner Sanchez
Steve Schmoll
Scott Schoeneweis
Aaron Sele
Joe Smith (This Article)
Jorge Sosa
Billy Wagner
Other Candidates
Four Other Names for You

2007 Pitching Previews: Summing It All Up

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Comments (7)

I've been eagerly awaiting your post about Joe Smith for some time now. He is an X-factor for this team and I personally believe he will ultimately see significant time on the Mets in 2007. And I think he will run with the opportunity. His numbers at Wright State were unbelievable in 2006: 0.98 ERA, 10.31 Ks per 9 inn, 2.62 BB per 9 inn. Yes I know it's just college, but his performance at Brooklyn and against all righties in the summer cemented the notion that he is an absolutely devestating weapon against righties, and can be one against lefties if he learns to throw a changeup eventually.

He will start the season in AA I imagine, but if even one of the 6th or 7th inning guys falters early I can see Smith getting called up to share the old Bradford role with Feliciano. His combination of velocity, sidewinder delivery and history of being a closer will translate into an important role on the Mets in the very near future. Much like Humber, I simply think he's made of the right sort of material to succeed on the big league stage.

I agree that he has a real chance. I debated with myself about including a second year pro in these previews, but decided that I had to. He really does have a chance to contribute this year.

I am going to be just as interested in Binghamton as I will be at Shea.In the first place its closer to me to catch a game and easy parking and second they have a few very good players to watch at that level.It would be great if all of us got together and boughht out a section for a game at Binghamton to catch our future stars.

If you click the following link you get to see Joe Smith's draft video form MLB.com

http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/events/draft/y2006/tracker/search.jsp?sc=team&sp=nyn&pg=2

Just look for his name and watch his video.
I'm shocked at how well he's done. I'm very happy on the Mets drafting him.
If I remember rcorrectly, Smith looked real bad in AA but since its a small sample size, I'll give him the benefit of the doubt.
He only really had 3 bad outtings and they were all consecutive outtings in August. August 20th he gave up 3 runs and walked 3 in 0.2 innings.
And on both August 22nd and 25th he gave up 2 runs in 0.2 innings.
Other than that little hiccup he was super solid. I'm sure with a bigger sample size he would be alot better.

Looking at Joe Smith's video his windup is much more similar to a right handed version of Feliciano than Bradford.

Thanks for your nice in-depth profiles of our pitchers.

I read on Metsblog or somewhere that Perez is out of options and can't be sent down to the minors. It will be real interesting to see what happens if Perez struggles during spring training and the guys we don't expect to assume spots in the rotation are lights out. Then what do Willie and Rick do?

Personally, I want to give the 3th and 4th spots to Maine and Perez. Saying it's an 'open competition' and that Maine and Perez are going to have to 'win' starting jobs sounds good. But if they're actually the 'favorites', I think it's better to make that known. Otherwise things could get ugly as preferential treatment is shown to a few guys.

Do you know which pitchers can still be sent down and which ones cannot? That will no doubt weigh heavily in the decision-making process.

Benny - Smith only pitched 12 innings in Binghamton at the end of the year, and admitted he was tired by the time he got there. Thanks to the link to the video.
---------------------------------
Chris - I honestly don't know the answer on who has options left, and I'm not sure where you can get that information. If anyone knows, please leave a comment.

I think both Maine and Perez have rotation jobs, but they could lose them if they pitch really poorly this spring. I do think the competition will be for the fifth starter.

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