DETROIT—The Tigers drafted Drew Smith in the third round of the 2015 draft, so they have not seen that much of him since he joined the organization. But they certainly like what they see.
Smith turned in impressive numbers in 13 outings in the low levels of the minors in 2015 after the Tigers selected the righthander out of Dallas Baptist.
“His stuff’s alive,” Tigers farm director Dave Owen said. “He’s got really good stuff: plus fastball, really hard curveball . . . We just really like his arm.”
Smith, 22, pitched almost exclusively in the short-season New York-Penn League but did make one appearance for low Class A West Michigan. His combined line for the season: 31 innings, 17 hits, two runs (one earned), five walks and 38 strikeouts. That adds up to a 0.29 ERA and a 0.710 WHIP.
His fastball sits in the 92-95 mph range but can touch the high 90s. He reportedly reached 99 mph during his college career.
“I haven’t seen 99, but I wouldn’t doubt if he could get there,” Owen said. “He does it easy and it’s good stuff. We got him after the college season, so it’ll fun to see where he is coming into spring training. But he was 92 to 95 during the time we had him and we’ll see if he keeps jumping up there.”
Owen said Smith simply needs time to develop, to command his fastball and become consistent with his secondary pitches. The Tigers have not said where Smith will start the 2016 season, but it’s a good bet he will spend a good chunk of his time at low Class A West Michigan. Could Smith find himself closing games there?
“Can he close? Sure,” Owen said. “He definitely has the stuff . . . Our philosophy right now with our younger guys is to be multiple-innings guys. Are there guys who can close a game? Absolutely. But we try not to label guys. ”
• Righthander Bruce Rondon, who was sent home by the Tigers during the season for a lack of effort, was at the center of a bench-clearing brawl in a winter league game in Venezuela.