- Full name Alexander Roelof Smit
- Born 10/02/1985 in Geldrop, Netherlands
- Profile Ht.: 6'3" / Wt.: 215 / Bats: L / Throws: L
- School Stolberg
Organization Prospect Rankings
The Twins stopped fighting Smit in 2006, and he rewarded them with a breakthrough season. He still has yet to put all his stuff and deception and fearlessness together in a full, consistent season, but he did enough to earn a spot on the 40-man roster. Smit has put together strong second halves in the past two seasons and continues to rack up huge strikeout numbers at lower levels. The Twins allowed him to go back to his unconventional knucklecurveball last year, an inconsistent pitch that can be a swing-and-miss offering at times. He pushes the pitch out with his thumb from the bottom, rather than producing spin from the top with his index or middle finger. Smit doesn't have a changeup, but he has plenty of feel for his fastball and spots it well, throwing it anywhere from the mid-80s to the low 90s, adding and subtracting as he goes. Since signing for $800,000 in 2002, Smit has lagged behind in figuring out how to be a professional, how to adopt a routine and how to stay in shape in the offseason. The Twins hope Smit will come to camp in better shape in 2007, avoid the poor spring training performances that have held him back and put together a strong season from start to finish for the first time, beginning in high Class A.
For the first time in his three-year pro career, Smit struggled in 2005. As usual one of the youngest pitchers in his league, he got hammered in low Class A and had to head back to the Appalachian League, where he pitched the year before. The one thing he did at both levels was rack up strikeouts, averaging 12.3 per nine innings for the season. That's a stunning figure considering his fastball tops out at 92 mph. He did a better job of maintaining his velocity after moving to the bullpen at Elizabethton, after his fastball had dropped to the mid-80s when he tired in the past. Smit also adjusted to throwing a conventional curveball instead of the knuckle-curve he had relied on previously. He's still working on a changeup that's less than reliable. He has a good feel for pitching and an improved understanding of how to set hitters up. Smit, who signed for $800,000, still projects as a No. 3 starter but the bullpen could be his best option. That's where he worked for the Dutch national team at the Athens Olympics. He'll give low Class A another try this year, and at 20 he still has time on his side.
A rare big-ticket international signing for the Twins, Smit came aboard for $800,000 in July 2002. International scout Howard Norsetter first saw Smit at age 13, when he was playing first base. Rated the top junior pitcher in the Netherlands in 2001-02, Smit has left in the middle of the last two seasons to pitch for the Dutch national team. He pitched in relief at the Sydney Olympics, throwing six strong innings against Canada but getting shelled by Australia. While Smit has pitched very well in pro ball and is still just 19, Minnesota wishes his velocity was more consistent. He pitches at 86-90 mph and tops out at 92. He made strides with his knuckle-curve and the arm action on his changeup, though neither pitch is totally reliable. He projects as a No. 2 or 3 starter if he develops the plus fastball the Twins expect, but he remains fairly raw. Smit has a good frame and durability, and he has gained 17 pounds since signing. He figures to move up to low Class A in 2005, when he once again will be one of the youngest pitchers in his league.
The Twins don't usually get involved in high-stakes bidding on the international market, but they didn't want to let Smit get away and signed him for $800,000. The first time Twins scout Howard Norsetter saw him, he was a 13-year-old first baseman. He has come a long way since then and was named the top junior (16-18 years old) pitcher in the Netherlands in 2001 and 2002. He made a promising pro debut in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League last summer, taking a break in July to pitch Holland to an Olympic berth. Though at 18 he's the equivalent of a high school senior, Smit could be the ace of the Dutch national team at the Athens Games. Smit topped out at 92 mph last year and there's more velocity in his slender frame. His fastball regularly sits at 86-90 mph, and he already can repeat his clean delivery on a consistent basis. Smit dominated the GCL, primarily with two pitches. His changeup is advanced, but the Twins would like to seem him incorporate his knuckle-curve into his mix more often. His breaking ball is inconsistent, but they were encouraged by the progress he made with it. He also will need to throw more strikes against more advanced hitters. Smit has a ceiling of a No. 2 or 3 starter, and Minnesota believes he can handle a jump to low Class A to start the season.
The Twins outbid the Yankees and Mariners for Smit last summer, signing him for $800,000. Smit, who was named the best junior (16-18 years old) pitcher in the Netherlands for two straight years, pitched in the World Junior Championship before reporting to instructional league for his first taste of pro ball. Minnesota is betting on Smit developing into a big, physical and athletic lefty in the mold of unsigned Orioles first-rounder Adam Loewen. The Twins believe Smit has the arm and delivery to fulfill their projection. Smit pitched in the mid- to upper 80s and topped out at 91 mph in instructional league. His changeup and ability to keep the ball down in the zone were particularly impressive to scouts. Smit has a chance to establish himself as one of the top lefties in the organization and one of the few who could remain a starter. The Twins have a good track record with helping foreign players adapt and will develop him cautiously, probably keeping him in extended spring training before sending him to one of their short-season clubs for his professional debut in 2003.
Minor League Top Prospects
Smit ranked ninth on this list a year ago before beginning 2005 as a starter in the low Class A Midwest League, where he struggled with his control and confidence. He took his return to Elizabethton in stride, working with pitching coach Jim Shellenback on commanding his curveball. Tall and athletic, Smit pitched exclusively out of the pen for the E-Twins and led the league in strikeouts. His fastball is his out pitch, but not because he can blow it by hitters. Smit understands how to upset hitters' timing, and he expertly changes speeds on his fastball, which has good life. "His first pitch would be 84, then 86-87, then 91 for the knockout," Smith said. Smit had trouble with his secondary pitches all season, and their development ultimately will determine how far he advances. In addition to his curve, he also throws a sinking changeup.
Smit is "as green as grass" according to one manager, which is expected because he's from Holland and was 18 all season. He has plenty of time to continue filling out his 6-foot-3, 207-pound frame and to stop twisting his wrist and pushing his breaking ball. He needs to develop more consistency with that pitch as well as his changeup. "I think he's still growing into his body," Kendall said. "He's got a good delivery, a fastball in the upper 80s to low 90s, and his breaking ball has good rotation." Smit showed glimpses of an impressive future by locating his knuckle-curve and spotting his sinker while throwing seven shutout innings against Johnson City in his final start before joining the Dutch Olympic team.
A product of the Netherlands, the 6-foot-3, 210-pound Smit signed for $800,000 last year at age 16. He made his pro debut this summer and might have led the league in ERA if he hadn't left in July to help his nation qualify for the Olympics. Smit has good command, particularly for his age. He also has a deceptive delivery, making his fastball look quicker than its customary 89-90 mph. But his arm action is a little short and not fluid, causing at least one manager to wonder if he'll throw any harder. "I did not see a particularly live arm," Caceres said. "He won't be a power guy. I see him more as a Tom Glavine type."