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Charting Vancouver Canadians’ Evan Smith

‘Twas the night before Seattle and all through B.C. (the lower bit at least) every Jays fan was stirring, even Tony G**. Blue Jays gear was folded and packed with care, while everyone hopes the US border will be bare.

The adults are nestled all snug in their beds while visions of IPA’s, Hefeweizen’s and Cowgirls dance in their heads.  And I with my liver, all bruised and battered, ask it to hold up for one more weekend, whereafter it will be truly tattered.

Apologies for the rubbish opening but this is the weekend all Jays fans on the west coast look forward to, so figured it need a poem.

The title to this post is slightly misleading. Last year, when I wrote about a pitcher, I actually sat behind home plate and charted them. On Tuesday, unfortunately, I didn’t get off my arse early enough to acquire a scout ticket so watched Evan from the pressbox. Not ideal.

So, the below is based on what I saw from above plus a heavy dose of C’s pitching coach Jim Czajkowski.

Smith was a 4th round pick in 2013 out of Mary Montgomery High School in Semmes, Alabama.  He began his pro career that year in the GCL, pitching 12 innings to mixed results.  In 2013 he, once again, threw 12 innings at the complex before being sent to Bluefield where he FIP’d an ok 3.82 while putting up a decent 2.83 K/BB ratio.

Smith fires

Smith fires

Despite the unexciting numbers the 19 year old has gotten some prospect ink of late with Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs including him in his ‘Others of Note’ section saying:

Smith sits 91-92 with heavy sink and has hit 95 mph, he has deception and the curveball and change show flashes, but mechanics/command need more work and that should unlock his potential, but there’s Matt Thornton type upside as is)

And Brendan Gawlowski, who is based out of Seattle and contributes to Baseball Prospectus saw him in Everett and had this to say:

tall, lanky and destined to be dubbed a crafty lefty. His fastball topped out at 91 and sat a few miles per hour slower, but he has good feel for a 2-7 curve. He replicates his arm speed well on all three of his pitches — he also has a tumbling change — and in my viewing, he moved the ball around the plate while staying out of trouble areas. There’s not much ceiling here, but both his over-the-top arm slot and his secondaries are geared to take care of righties as well as lefties, and he could crack a big league rotation if it all breaks right.

There’s obviously a bit of a difference in velos between the two reports above.  When I saw him he was on the bell curve, sitting 91/92 in first couple of innings, ramping it up to mid-90s in middle innings before settling back down to the low-90s in 5th and 6th.

What got me was his mechanics.  They looked awkward to say the least.  He has a smaller leg kick which looks stilted given he’s 6’5″.  His landing is quite short and upright with his foot distinctly on the first base side.  To me, it looked like he was almost short-arming the ball to minimize any potential arm problems a max effort cross-fire delivery might cause.

I asked Big Jim about this after the game and his response was interesting:

“His problem, and we noticed it by watching video, is that he was pitching real stiff, so we ran some physical tests on him, and he was not very flexible in his upper half.  So we’ve been doing some exercises to try and stretch that out for him and it seems to have helped in his last two starts.  His upper half is much better, he’s been able to stretch his arms, and is making strides on it every day.”

It’s funny, when you hear something like that (and this is coming from a guy who has very stiff shoulder) you think……if he could only just unlock those shoulders and pitch downhill a bit more…..

But hey, the world is littered with what ifs.  He is 6’5″ 190, so obviously has the projectability tag.  I’m just saying, add that plus looser shoulders and voila.

He didn’t throw a ton of changes on the night so was tough to get a gauge on that pitch.  In regards to the breaking ball, both the scouting reports above mention a curve.  The one I saw on Tuesday looked like a slider. Ranging from 77 to 82 mph.  So I went to the pitching coach:

“It’s a slider, when he gets it across the plate it’s harder. When he misses it, it’s much slower.  There’s something about his fingers when he releases, he sometimes doesn’t pull down on it and will miss up and away to a righty and away in to a lefty.  When he throws it well and down, they’re hard.”

Evan’s last outings have been, by far, his best, throwing 11 shutout innings giving up just five hits with three walks and 10 K’s.

With Tom Robson, Jon Harris and Ryan Borucki now in the fold, they, along with Smith — and Clinton Hollon — could form a pretty decent rotation heading in to the second half — of course, it probably won’t include both Robson and Harris but hey, let’s not think about that right now.

Other News and Notes:

Speaking of Borucki.  The 2013 TJ recipient who had a bit of a clean out this off-season missed his last scheduled appearance.  I asked Jim if it was anything to worry about:

“A little shoulder issue, we just wanted to make sure. We’re gonna back him off right now and take it day by day. Everything is strong, the doctor saw him yesterday, we just wanted to make sure as he’s a real aggressive competitor and sometimes he overdoes it.  We just want to make sure he’s completely healthy before he goes out again.”

I also asked Czajkowski about the recent Fangraphs article noting changes in Jeff Hoffman‘s mechanics. Asking whether it was an organizational thing to get guys more upright in order to protect their arms.  The answer I got was quite in depth so may look to make a post of it.  But the short answer is no.

Off to Seattle.  The C’s have Clinton Hollon starting tomorrow with Robson on Saturday.  Gutted I’m missing those two but get Hutchison and Estrada instead.

**You may have to be from BC to get the Tony G reference. He’s a cantankerous old Canucks beat reporter that can best be described as ‘quite negative’

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