- Full name Matthew Joel Smith
- Born 06/15/1979 in Las Vegas, NV
- Profile Ht.: 6'5" / Wt.: 225 / Bats: L / Throws: L
- School Oklahoma State
- Debut 04/14/2006
- Drafted in the 44th round (1,310th overall) by the Chicago White Sox in 1997.
Organization Prospect Rankings
No stranger to the big game atmosphere, Smith was Oklahoma State's No. 1 starter as a sophomore on the school's last team to go to Omaha. He also pitched in the same rotation as Mark Prior for Team USA in 1999, but injuries plagued him throughout his pro career and he never panned out as a starter. The Yankees moved Smith to the bullpen in 2002, where he steadily climbed through the system working with a fastball/ slider mix. Smith gets good late life on his 90-93 mph fastball, and his sweeping slider with 1-to-7 break can be a plus pitch at times. The slider is Smith's best pitch, and gives him a chance to start the year in the Philadelphia bullpen. A middle or situational reliever who could help the big league club immediately, Smith's ceiling is limited to a solid-average lefty setup man with not much upside beyond that.
Smith had a high-profile college career at Oklahoma State, where he was the No. 1 starter as a sophomore on the Cowboys' last College World Series entry. He also pitched for Team USA in 1999 in a rotation that also included Mark Prior. Injuries stunted his progress as a pro. He found new life in the bullpen last season and earned a spot on the 40-man roster as well as a second turn with Team USA, this time on the team of professionals in the November regional Olympic qualifier in Arizona. Smith is a different pitcher from the one the Yankees drafted, having battled elbow soreness and a serious blow to his confidence when he struggled in 2002 in his first stab at Double-A. In the bullpen, he has improved the velocity on his formerly flagging fastball, getting it back to 89-92 mph. He has honed his breaking ball, once a slurvy curveball, into a sweeping slider that at times has 1-to-7 depth and bite. One club official rated it a plus pitch, and until Philip Hughes starts throwing his again, Smith has the best slider in the system. The pitch gives him an edge over the likes of Sean Henn and Wayne Franklin to earn a spot as a bullpen lefty in New York in 2006, but he'll have to prove himself to the big league brass and figures to open the year in Triple-A.
Despite a disappointing junior season in 2000, Smith established Oklahoma State's career strikeout record and went in the fourth round based on the stuff he showcased throughout his freshman and sophomore season. His velocity faded from 90 mph to 85-87 as a junior, and he stayed at that plateau during his pro debut. The Yankees were pleasantly surprised when his fastball returned to the 88-92 mph range last season. He gets effective sink on his two-seamer, and uses a curve with slurvy action that rivals Brandon Claussen's breaking ball. Smith also has a developing changeup to keep hitters guessing. He throws strikes and doesn't beat himself. After a strong second half of 2001 in high Class A, Smith should be ready to handle a move to Norwich.
Best Tools List
- Rated Best Slider in the New York Yankees in 2006