Detroit Tigers top 30 prospects for 2023: No.16 - Dylan Smith
The Detroit Tigers invest in college arms often, which has helped them power their pitching staff in recent years. While there's a new man in charge in Scott Harris, drafting could change, but that does not matter for the arms already in the system.
The Detroit Tigers may not be breeding aces anymore, but a couple of their big-time pitchers have become guys who project to have solid big-league careers. Some of the players working their way through the system project the same.
One of the pitchers who could be someone to keep an eye on is Dylan Smith. The 22-year-old pitcher was selected in the third round of the 2021 MLB Draft out of the University of Alabama. He's still got some time in the farm system before cracking the big leagues, but he clocks in just outside the top half our the Motor City Bengals Top-30 list at no.16 on the countdown.
The right-handed pitcher got his first taste of affiliate ball in 2022, spending time in Single-A Lakeland before earning his call-up to High-A West Michigan. Smith went out and made 21 starts overall with one relief appearance.
Smith pitched to a 4.28 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP over 88.1 innings pitched. He punched out 89 opposing hitters while issuing 21 walks in 2022 while pre-dominantly pitching in High-A with West Michigan.
Looking at the right-hander, he's got some length in the 6-foot-2, 180-pound frame in a projectable starter build. He works into a side step where his hands counteract the leg lift. The Hands start high before sinking as he gets into a leg lift up around the letters.
He's able to work down the mound on line and gets over the front foot, there's not a ton of extension in the stride, but his stuff works, so it works for him. Smith hides the ball well through the back on what looks like a medium arm stroke through the delivery. There's some quickness to the arm too.
Smith hrows from a higher three-quarters arm slot and repeats the actions well. The pitch mix is good, and he commands it quite well. He's able to work into the mid-90s and sits in the low-90s consistently. The pitch has some arm-side life to it and gets a little bit of plane when he locates low, keeping it down. He paces the fastball with an upper-80s changeup as needed. It's got some depth to it. It tunnels fine, but the fastball and slider tunnel better.
Smith's slider has good tilt with horizontal to it being able to force hitters to lose the barrel and induce the swing-and-miss. When he leaves it in the zone, it's able to look like the fastball out of the hand, working low, forcing hitters to be off on their timing and induce weak contact, if not whiffs.
Even in a clip like this from last summer, it's easy to see what Smith wants to do. Work the lower half of the strike zone, tunnel the FB/SL mix off of one another, and pace it with the changeup as needed. He can miss barrels and command the zone when the stuff is on.
It will be interesting to see how things go for him in 2023 if he can go out and continue to miss barrels and command well. It feels like he still has starter upside, but with this bat-missing stuff in a primarily two-pitch attack, it could be a reliever guy.
It's early as he will continue making starts, but I'd like to see him better define that repertoire and be able to build it out to attack hitters in multiple ways. Projection-wise, it feels like he could be a back-end starter in the rotation or a swing-and-miss reliever.