Name: Kevin Smith
Weight: 200 lbs.
Acquired: 2018 MLB Draft, 7th Round (University of Georgia)
17 G (17 GS), 85.2 IP, 83 H, 30 R, 29 ER (3.15 ERA), 24 BB, 102 K, 3 HBP, 0 BLK, 8 WP, .359 BABIP (Low-A)
6 G (6 GS), 31.1 IP, 25 H, 12 R, 12 ER (3.45 ERA), 15 BB, 28 K, 0 HBP, 1 BLK, 3 WP, .227 BABIP (Double-A)
With their 7th round in the 2018 MLB Draft, the Mets selected Kevin Smith, a left-handed pitcher out of the University of Georgia. Over the course of his three years with the Bulldogs, the southpaw had a cumulative 4.17 ERA in 170.1 innings, having allowed 165 hits, walked 77, and struck out 186. Smith and the Mets agreed to a $222,300 signing bonus- roughly $300,000 less than slot value- and the southpaw officially became part of the New York Mets organization. He was assigned to the Brooklyn Cyclones and posted a 0.76 ERA in 23.2 innings that summer, starting three games and pitching out of the bullpen in nine. The Mets assigned Smith to the St. Lucie Mets to begin the 2019 season, and the southpaw was surprisingly good. Over the course of 17 starts, he posted a 3.05 ERA in 85.2 innings, allowing 83 hits, walking 24, and striking out 102. At the end of July, the southpaw was promoted to Double-A, and while his body of work there is still a fraction of what it was in St. Lucie, the 22-year-old left-hander barely missed a beat, posting a 3.45 ERA in 31.1 innings, allowing 25 hits, walking 15, and striking out 28.
The 6’5”, 200-pound southpaw throws from a low three-quarters, almost sidearm arm slot, throwing from the extreme third-base side of the rubber. He is athletic and is able to repeat his delivery well. Because of his arm slot and pitches, left-handers have a hard time batting against Smith.
Smith’s fastball sits 88-91 MPH, featuring arm-side run and little-to-no sink, indicative of a high spin rate. His best offering is his slider, which breaks enough to pass as a curve but makes its 10-6 drop late and sharp. It is a weapon, particularly against lefties. The pitch ranges from 81-84 MPH, and Smith is able to flatten and firm it up on occasion. He generally has good command of the pitch, working it either at the bottom of the zone or below, and off the outside edge to left-handed hitters. He also throws a changeup, which sits 82-84 MPH. While he does not slow his arm down when throwing it, the pitch lacks much velocity separation as compared to his fastball and has minimal fade, making it an ineffective offering thus far in his professional career.
Barring some kind of injury, Kevin Smith is going to log MLB innings, but I don’t think they’ll be particularly sexy. Given his profile, I can’t see Smith getting far in his current role. Given how stretched the stuff will probably be attempting to get 27 major league hitters out, a lefty-killer with the ability to get right-handed outs is a far more likely outcome. It might not be that exciting an outcome, but it still counts as a win for a developmental system.
Despite underwhelming stuff, Smith had a really strong 2019, dominating St. Lucie and surviving at Double-A for six starts. He’s a big, tall lefty that gets good extension and spin on fastball, both of which let him excel with a primary offering that sits around 90 MPH. The breaker isn’t great and the change is underwhelming, but there could be a back-end starter here. More data from the high minors is needed to see if this was a flash-in-the-pan against poor competition or a legitimate breakout that can be sustained against better hitters.
The Mets 7th round draft pick from 2018 had something of a breakout season last year, in which he shoved in the Florida State League and more than held his own as a starter in the Eastern League. Smith posted a 3.15 ERA and 2.79 FIP across the two levels in 2019 and managed to strikeout 27.2% of the hitters he faced while walking just 8.2%. Smith’s statistics may have been stellar as a starter this past season, but the stuff and repertoire may prove to be a little short for a starter at the big league level. His fastball sits in the 88-92 range, and neither secondary has the makings of a true outpitch that will work against hitters from both sides of the plate. The stuff would probably play up in the bullpen, should the Mets decide to try him out as a reliever, and it’s easy to imagine the breaking ball in particular causing major issues for left-handed hitters down the line.
Smith has been better as a Mets prospect than he was in college at the University of Georgia, and he makes his debut on our list after another strong season. After bursting onto the scene with Brooklyn in 2018 (0.76 ERA in 12 games, three starts), he continued his strong display in 2019. He made 23 starts across High-A and Double-A and posted a 3.15 ERA in that span. He struck out 130 batters in 117 innings, to only 39 walks. His best pitch is his slider, but he has a rather unimpressive, low-90s fastball. The production is certainly there, and is hard to ignore, but his stuff could improve going into 2020.