Scouting Yankees Prospect #46: Brett Smith

Smith has three quality big league pitches

The Yankees drafted Brett Smith in the 2nd round of the 2004 MLB Draft out of the University of California-Irvine. He bounced back from a disappointing professional debut season in 2005 with a solid performance with the Tampa Yankees this past year.


Vital Statistics:
Name: Brett Smith
Position: Starting Pitcher
DOB: August 12, 1983
Height: 6'5"
Weight: 220
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

"I thought it was a good year," Brett Smith said when reflecting on his 2006 season. "Looking back it, there's obviously some things you wished you could have done better or been more effective at. I'm proud of the year I had and some of the strides I made in becoming the baseball player I am and the one I hope I can be for the team."

A winning pitcher in college, it has been an adjustment for him to the professional game. And while his stats haven't been eye-popping thus far, he realizes progress has been made.

"Just really overall game savvy," Smith listed as which area he thinks he improved the most in. "Moving into professional baseball, I thought it would be a lot easier than it has been. I thought it would have been a lot more similar to college baseball or high school baseball and it's definitely not."

"It's a completely a different beast," he continued. "I'm happy with the fact that I'm becoming a better professional in all aspects of the game, from the clubhouse to the playing field. It makes it easier every year going back that, that trend will continue."

Getting acclimated to the sheer number of games in a professional season, both mentally and physically, hasn't been an easy adjustment to make. But at the same time, Brett Smith says he wouldn't have it any other way.

"It's tough to describe," he said when asked to compare the difference between the college and pro game. "There's a lot of work put in behind the scenes that I think the average fan doesn't realize. There's a ton of work and you're putting your practice days and your game days in together, basically everyday. That takes its toll on you. In high school, you're talking 17 or 18 games a year when you're a professional, you're talking 140. Some things stick out differently in that."

"As a player I think it's exactly what you want because you can find out exactly who you are and you can put your finger on exactly on the problems you may or may not be having. Learning to deal with that, and learning how to be effective in dealing with that, I think was the biggest stride I made this year."

While he continues to get comfortable with the professional game, another reason coaches and scouts won't ever give up on Smith as a legitimate prospect is his tremendous work ethic.

"I'm proud of the work I've done with Nardi [Contreras] and Marc Newman," he admitted. "I've talked with them. They're not afraid to bounce ideas off of me, or ask me to do some things or execute some changes, because I think I have the reputation that I'm willing to do that. I'm willing to put in as much work as I can to try and make myself a better baseball player. I don't think I come off as lazy or complacent. I'm happy with that."

One of the more intelligent ball players around, and an absolute baseball junkie who soaks everything in, Smith gets overlooked by his critics because he neither lights up the radar guns nor puts up the sexy stats.

But while the numbers don't garner a lot of attention, the fact remains that his stuff is Major League quality and he made big strides in being more consistent with his arsenal in 2006.

"Stuff-wise, I think I'm repeating my delivery a lot better," he said of some advancements he made this past season. "I think my stuff has always been there. There was some cosmetic stuff that helped me be in better control, have a better feel on the ball, and a better arm slot."

"I just think if I can repeat my delivery consistently, from there I think I can only go upward," he continued. "My stuff will only get better, not as far as in terms of developing, but as far as command and control."

More of a changeup specialist with a good big league fastball, Smith made marked improvements with his curveball this past season and it was a big reason for the turnaround in his production.

"I'd say the control of my curveball was far better than last year," said the 23-year old. "I think my first year I was pitching mainly fastball-changeup. I could get away with that a little bit in Charleston and some in Tampa because I wasn't afraid to throw changeups in fastball counts. Granted, that's a huge part of pitching. You saw that in the World Series, that's what gets good hitters out."

"At the same time, to be a real effective pitcher and the pitcher I want to be and hopefully the Yankees want me to be, you've got to have plus command of three good pitches. That's the key to being an effective big league pitcher."

A pitcher built more to pitch to contact rather than striking batters out, the fact remains that Brett Smith has been an innings eater in his career thus far, not to mention one of the healthiest hurlers in the organization.

While the likes of Jason Stephens, Lance Pendleton, Mark Melancon, and Christian Garcia have fallen to Tommy John surgery, Smith hasn't missed a start in his career.

"I'm excited about that," he said about remaining healthy in his career thus far, "but I feel bad for those guys. Those guys are my friends. We're all in this together. You don't want that to happen to anybody. Some people view the minor leagues as some kind of 'king of the hill' kind of race, except for the people who are in it."

"That being said, I am happy about staying healthy," he confirmed. "I've put in the work to remain healthy and hopefully that continues. I work real hard out here in the offseason and it's been a blessing that I've been able to stay healthy."

Shaving nearly a run and a half off of his Florida State League ERA in 2006, nobody can discount the progress he has made to his game thus far. He knows his limitations and he's looking to simply stay the course in his development.

"I'm just looking to continue doing what I've been doing," he listed as his goal for the 2007 season. "Hopefully I'll get the chance to prove I can pitch at the double-A level. I hope I get that opportunity and I'm just looking forward to improving my overall game. I think that's all I can fairly ask of myself."

"I don't think I could say, 'this year I want to throw a 95 MPH fastball'. It's not in the cards. I don't see myself sitting there and lighting up radar guns, that's really not my game. Overall as a pitcher I think I'm as competitive as anybody and as I'll put as much work in. In that regard, I want to keep improving that."

"I don't think you can get good enough at being a pitcher, working out, or all the stuff that comes along with it. All those extras are what I think makes a good pitcher. I think those extra things will help me get there," he concluded."

































Repertoire. Fastball, Curveball, Changeup, Slider.

Fastball. Brett Smith doesn't have the blazing fastball associated with a frontline starting pitcher, but what he does have is an average big league fastball in the 88-92 MPH range with above average command. He won't blow fastballs by hitters but he'll hit his spots with regularity and keep hitters off-balanced with his location.

Other Pitches. What makes his fastball more effective is his plus changeup. Sitting 78-80 MPH, Smith is extremely confident with his changeup and he'll spot it with relative ease, even in fastball counts. He compliments his fastball-changeup combination with a power curveball in the 78-84 MPH range. It was an extremely inconsistent pitch for him in 2005 and he made huge strides with it this past season. It has some room to improve even more and it has become a valuable weapn in his arsenal. He mixes in a slider at times, throwing it in the 83-88 MPH range, but it is not very consistent at all and it is still very much a work in progress.

Pitching. Fans and critics get on Smith because he doesn't throw 95 MPH nor does he have the strikeout totals that excite people. But the fact is, his goal on the mound is to pitch to contact and get the batter out with as few pitches as possible by inducing ground ball and fly ball outs. This allows his defense to stay sharp, let him pitch deeper into games, and help rest the bullpen. He throws three quality Major League pitches and, with his intelligent approach on the mound and good control, keeps hitters guessing.

Projection. Smith will never be a top pitching prospect in anybody's rankings, but he is the type of pitcher every team needs. He projects to be a solid back-end rotation type of starter at the big league level who will eat up innings and keep his team in ball games. From a projection and production standpoint, think Steve Trachsel or Jeff Suppan for a good big league comparison if he can reach his potential.

ETA. 2009. The fact that he remained in the Florida State League for the entire 2006 season may have delayed his big league ETA a year. He should be a mainstay in the Trenton rotation in 2007 and he appears to be moving up a level each season, putting his ETA at some point in 2009.


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