Continuing our Top 30 Detroit Tigers prospect list, we turn our attention to right-hander Dylan Smith. Last season, Smith, who was ranked number 16 on our list, made only 12 starts between West Michigan and Erie in a season he would likely prefer to forget.
Smith made only three starts for Erie before being shut down with a right forearm strain. After a few starts in the Florida Complex League, he finished the season at West Michigan and in the Arizona Fall League, still seeking consistency. Smith provided Tigers fans glimpses of his potential when healthy and when his command was consistent, striking out nine in four innings of work for Salt River.
Smith's arsenal includes a fastball, slider, curveball, and changeup. Against left-handers, his two-seam fastball induces many swings and misses in the top of the zone, making it an effective strikeout pitch. He sits in the low 90's, and can touch 95-96 MPH from time to time.
His repeatable mechanics allow him to place the curveball on the inside portion of the plate to left-handers, and his slider, rated as a plus pitch at 55, exhibits significant east-to-west movement with good tilt and depth, averaging between 85-87 mph.
Smith's split changeup, a pitch he doesn't use often, shows promising movement. Given the Tigers' recent success in developing pitchers who effectively utilize changeups, it will be interesting to see if Smith's changeup, which already has good vertical movement, will advance in 2024, mirroring the progress seen in Sawyer Gipson-Long and Brant Hurter.
Overall, Smith is projected as a fourth starter. The crucial factor, as mentioned earlier, is maintaining his health. Smith's secondary pitches exhibit plus potential, offering much to work with. Although Detroit currently has a solid depth of starters, he might begin the season in Erie, possibly as a swingman, dividing his time between the bullpen and the rotation. In any case, Smith presents a promising talent pool, and there is hope for a strong rebound in 2024.
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