The Detroit Tigers Minor League affiliates seasons are now officially in the books. With another season completed, the time has come for me to announce the 2011 MCB Down on the Farm All-Star Team.
In an effort to reward less talked about prospects, only players that did not receive a call-up to Detroit this season were eligible. While you may recognize some of the names, remember these awards aren’t a pronouncement of the Tigers top prospects. The awards were based heavily upon the best overall statistical season per position.
Similar to previous years, the breakdown of the roster will consist of one player per position, a designated hitter, five starting pitchers and five relievers.
2011 MCB Down on the Farm All-Star Team: SP Drew Smyly
TEAMS: Advanced-A Lakeland & AA-Erie
COMBINED STATS: 126 IP 11-6 2.07 ERA 1.10 WHIP 9.3 K/9 2.6 BB/9 0.1 HR/9
Drew Smyly was selected by the Detroit Tigers in the second round of the 2010 MLB First-Year Player Draft out of the University of Arkansas. He stands 6’3″ tall and weighs 190 pounds. In his final season as a Razorback, Smyly finished 9-1 with a 2.80 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP. He also struck out over a batter an inning in 103 innings of work. In 2011, the 22-year-old split time between Advanced-A Lakeland and AA-Erie.
Smyly is a finesse pitcher that relies heavily on changing speeds. He throws from a high 3/4 arm slot that exposes the ball quite a bit. His delivery in general appears almost effortless, especially in the lower half of his body. He definitely didn’t allow as many ground-balls as I expected in the handful of starts that I observed last season. Regardless, both his stuff and results were impressive.
His repertoire features a low 90s fastball with great sinking action. He has been clocked as high as 94 mph but he sat regularly in the low 90s. He features a low 80s sweeping curveball that rates a tick above average. He recently introduced a mid 80s cutter and also features a serviceable mid 80s change-up. While his fastball is noted to be his only “plus pitch”, he appeared to have decent command and control of his entire arsenal. Like all young pitchers, continuing to polish his secondary offerings and make adjustments will be his keys to success down the road.
BEHIND THE NUMBERS:
His time in Advanced-A Lakeland can almost be described as A Tale of Two Drews. In his first 17 2/3 innings with the Flying TigersSmyly posted a 4.08 ERA and a 1.42 WHIP. He appeared to cruise through the first few innings, labor a bit and finally hit a wall. He also appeared to hang breaking balls and struggled locating his pitches. This seemed odd to me because Smyly had been described as nothing but consistent by scouts. It was a small sample size of data but the results weren’t very encouraging. Smyly was then shelved with “general soreness” and given an undetermined timeline for his return. Naturally, like most Tigers fans I freaked out and prepared for the worst.
After a month on the DL, Smyly came back strong and finally as advertised. He finished 7-3 with a 2.58 ERA and 77 strikeouts in 80 1/3 innings with the Flying Tigers. His growth over the season–especially post DL–was perhaps most encouraging. Smyly was controlling his pitches better and keeping the ball down in the zone. He was also throwing his secondary offerings with more confidence and success. His performance earned him a late season promotion to AA-Erie where he only improved. In 8 starts Smylyfinished 4-3 with an amazing 1.18 ERA for the SeaWolves. He also racked up 53 strikeouts over 45 2/3 innings. Overall Smyly went on to strikeout over a batter an inning while limiting walks. He avoided the long ball too, surrendering just two in 126 innings last season. His performance earned him the 2011 Detroit Tigers Minor League Pitcher of the Year Award. Smyly was also selected to represent Team U.S.A. in the Baseball World Cup in Panama.
The term most frequently used to describe Drew Smyly by scouts has been consistent. It is believed by those same scouts that he should have no problem reaching his ceiling. Despite an impressive 2011 campaign, his ceiling still doesn’t exactly scream ace to me. That’s not a slam on Smyly or his stuff though. Smyly appears to be a very solid number three, four or five guy. In fact his ceiling and floor are almost level to me at this point. I still envision Smyly as an inning eater that simply finds ways to keep his team in the game while posting respectable numbers. He should continue to move through the Detroit Tigers farm system rather quickly.
I expect Smyly to begin the 2012 season in Triple-A Toledo. Congratulations to Drew Smyly for an outstanding season!
Next Up: SP