MadFriars Player Profile: Burch Smith

When the Padres drafted Burch Smith out of the University of Oklahoma in 2011, he was thought of as something of a project. He pitched in the low 90s, but his control was somewhat spotty and he didn't have much of a change up to work with. After 18 months in the organization, the book is vastly different for the soon-to-be 23-year-old.

The righty from Texas has found added velocity by tightening up his mechanics and building strength. And in his professional debut last season, Smith posted an impressive 137:27 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 138 Cal League innings.

Smith, a 6'4" righty, works with both a two- and four-seam fastball, and has both a slider and curve that he will use in different situations. As with all pitchers in the Padres system, he's been getting used to working with a changeup and now has it as a usable pitch against righties.

"The best thing he did," said pitching coordinator Mike Cather about Smith's debut season, "is that he was himself. He uses the late life and explosiveness of his fastball, and he learned how to throw his secondary pitches."

Smith, who was regularly hitting 96 and 97 with his fastball this spring, will be one of the anchors of the 2013 San Antonio Missions' starting rotation. We caught up with Burch in Peoria, and talked about his offseason work and his repertoire going forward.

After your first year as a professional, how did you go about using the offseason to prepare for 2013?

Burch Smith: I went back home to Tyler and got my work done there. Then also, the last two months, I went to Norman, where I went to school and worked with my pitching coach there.

Did you focus mostly on building strength and stamina?

Burch Smith: In the offseason, my focus is really to build as much strength as I can. I did conditioning and weight training. I'm the type of guy that likes to long toss a lot. I feel like the regular season's not the best time to stretch it out to 300-plus feet, but this offseason I was able to do that.

When did you get into that long toss program?

Burch Smith: I started my senior year of high school and into my freshman year I really started buying into it. Long tossing is one of the main things you can do to strengthen your arm, so I'm a big believer.

If someone asked you to file a scouting report on yourself, what would you mark as your strengths on the mound?

Burch Smith: I'd probably say my fastball, and really, my command.

Last season, especially the second half of the year, you really limited the home runs and walks you gave up. Was that about a focus on working down in the strike zone?

Burch Smith: Well, the first half, I gave up quite a few. But I made the adjustment and it was, like you just said, it was just getting the ball up in the zone. I feel like in college, I got away with that a little more, but at this level, I wasn't able to. So, staying in the zone is something I still have to work on.

Had you ever relied on a changeup before you got into the system, where they are big believers in using the change?

Burch Smith: In college, I didn't throw too many changeups, but when I got here, they were heavy on fastball location and changeups. After last year, learning to be more comfortable with my changeup, I'm grateful for it.

As you move up against more advanced hitters, are you thinking about trying to narrow down to specific spots in the strike zone with your pitches, not just getting it into the zone?

Burch Smith: I try not to be too fine with any kind of offspeed, or fastball for that matter. I just try to throw everything with conviction. Whenever I start to try to place things or get too fine with it, the curveball starts to get loopy or I start worrying about too much.

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