The Blue Rocks Get Shorty
Listed as six feet in height, Kyle Smith transcended his size when he stepped on the mound for Kane County in 2012. Smith is the lesser-known righty going by that unique first name in the Royals organization. Kyle Zimmer is the highly touted arm drafted fifth overall in 2012 out of college. Kyle Smith was selected in the fourth round last year out of a Florida high school. While Zimmer has the bona fides of a high first round draft choice, Kyle Smith might be more intriguing as he enters his age 20 season in HiA with the Wilmington Blue Rocks in 2013.
At 19, Smith put up stellar numbers in the Midwest League for Kane County. In thirteen starts for the cougars, over 67 and a third innings, Kyle Smith struck out 87 while giving up 20 walks and three homers. No one else under 21 years of age with at least 66 innings pitched struck out a higher percentage of batters faced or more batters per nine innings in the Midwest League in 2012. However, according to his line drive percentage and BABIP, when opposing hitters did make contact, the contact was solid. Baseball America ranked Smith as the 16th best prospect coming out of a Midwest League that was particularly talent-laden in 2012.
Reports indicate that Kyle Smith has three pitches: fastball, curve, and change up. In the 5.2 innings that I saw of his start on July 21, 2012 against the Dayton Dragons, Smith’s work consisted almost entirely of fastballs and curves. The announcers provided the radar reading on only one fastball and it came in at 92. His fastball rarely displayed much armside run so I am not sure whether he either lacks a two seamer or simply doesn’t get much movement on it – I would assume the latter. What I do know is that Smith does get a lot of jump on his fastball and seems to keep hitters swinging late, often on a high fastball that I expect more advanced hitters will lay off. He sequences his fastball well with his curve, which is a tremendous pitch. While it is basically of the 12-6 variety, it’s pretty tight and he shows the ability to keep it down in the zone. Impressively, Kyle also displayed another secondary pitch that distinguished itself from his aforementioned curve by breaking down and armside (instead of down and slightly gloveside). Normally I would assume that such a pitch was a change up except for the fact that it had so much break to it. No matter what the offering was, it was most effective. His secondary pitches in general allowed him to blow away nine Dragon batters on July 21. In the fourth inning he struck out Ryan Wright on three pitches: curve, curve, fastball. In the fifth, he struck out the Dragons weak hitting number nine hitter with a curve that had the poor fellow so fooled he swung late despite the reduced velocity. The extent to which Kyle Smith misses bats at age 19 is very encouraging.
In a way his motion is kind of textbook especially for a pitcher of his stature. The mechanics look smooth and effective if not especially easy. It seems that Smith has tamed the twist he incorporates when he loads up for the delivery. As he raises his left leg the foot does float out to a slight kick but remains articulated downward as it leads his body forward. The way in which Kyle Smith rocks and fires his pitches forward is a credible and fun-to-watch manner of pitching.
As the Kansas City Royals organization continues to gear up for a push towards meaningful baseball games in 2014, the continued development of their newest trio of young pitchers in 2013 will be essential. Along with Kyle Zimmer and Yordano Ventura, the lesser-heralded Kyle Smith might be as promising as any of them.