When Miguel Castro was promoted from Vancouver to Lansing a couple of weeks ago I, for purely selfish reasons, wrote that the blow to my viewing pleasure would be softened somewhat (or completely) if current Bluefield left-hander Matt Smoral was sent to Vancouver to replace him. It seems that the Jays heard my pleas:
Aug 7: LHP Matthew Smoral assigned to Vancouver Canadians (Short-A) from Bluefield Blue Jays (Rookie-APP). #bluejays
— Blue Jays Moves (@BlueJaysMoves) August 7, 2014
Or, they just recognized that the Solon, Ohio native was ready for the step up in competition. I went into the stats briefly when discussing why I was going to ‘balloon’ Smoral on my 2015 top prospect list so won’t repeat myself. I did, however, want to compare Smoral’s early pro numbers with that of Daniel Norris, another lefty who initially struggled with his mechanics:
(statistics courtesy of fangraphs.com)
You’ll notice I left out Norris’ stints in both Vancouver (2012) and Dunedin (2013) as both were too small of a sample size to be relevant. Another thing that is tough to overlook when comparing the two is the how much further Norris advanced considering they were drafted a year apart. Again, you have to take into account Smoral’s foot injury that kept him out for the bulk of his senior season. There was no way the Jays were going to rush him and he didn’t press the case when he struggled to find the zone during that first year.
Still, like Daniel, there were some encouraging signs. He missed bats at a high rate and his FIP was lower than his bloated ERA.
And, again, Smoral has followed in Norris’ footsteps so far during his second season. Improving pretty much across the board, despite the step up in competition. The number that really stands out is the 13.63 K/9. As I said in my previous piece, that leads all pitchers (with a minimum of 30 innings pitched) in the App by 2.65/9. That’s incredible.
His control has obviously improved tremendously as well. Despite throwing eight more innings thus far this year, he’s walked eight fewer hitters, hit seven less, and uncorked two fewer wild pitches.
Norris’ walk rate that second year was hurt by a tough first half when the Lansing pitching coach forced him to use only fastball. His second half was lights out and compares quite favourably to what Smoral has done thus far.
Now, I realize Bluefield isn’t quite Lansing but, regardless, what can we expect from Smoral in Vancouver? With the C’s having been on the road for what seems like forever, I may not find out what pitch count Matt is on but let’s just assume that his promotion dovetails with an increase in that category to something like 80. If he throws well, that means approximately five starts in Vancouver at say five innings a piece.
The above table isn’t derived from any sort of intelligent prediction system like Oliver, ZiPS, etc. Just some ‘educated’ guesses on my behalf. If he makes his first start Sunday at the Nat, he could potentially take the bump four of five times at the Nat. That would depress any home run numbers. His strike out rates should still be pretty high given the stuff, but won’t be as otherworldly as his Appalachian league numbers.
The HBP and BB numbers were derived from what he’d done in Virginia with a little bump added.
Of course, I started writing this piece prior to Smoral’s C’s debut. Which was in relief of Ryan Borucki and a bit rocky, as the big left-hander gave up two hits, two walks, hit two batters and threw two wild pitches in 2/3’s of an inning. I’m not going to bother changing my predictions because that would be cheating. What I will do though, when looking at Smoral’s stats going forward (and he’s shoving), is use my patented creating accounting method, similar to what I used for Castro when he had that blowup against the HIllsboro Hops.
I wasn’t here for Smoral’s first game so can’t really draw too many conclusions. Obviously patience is needed, although, with the C’s in the thick of a playoff race, Vancouver fans may be unwilling to be that charitable.
It will be interesting to see how Matt is used going forward, something I’ll endeavour to find out in the near future.