Smith, 20, was the first draft pick of the A.J. Preller era, when San Diego selected the hurler out of Park Vista High School, about 60 miles away from Miami. Smith decided to forgo a scholarship to Florida Atlantic to pitch in the Padres’ organization.
Smith started his professional career in the blazing heat of the Arizona League, where he was limited to two innings per start. The overall numbers weren’t great (7.94 ERA in 17 innings) but the righty flashed a mid-90’s fastball and a potentially above-average curve.
After throwing roughly one hundred innings in 2015 between his senior season in high school and his Arizona League stint, the organization had him piggyback with J.C. Cosme. Smith started the season in the rotation, then came in relief later in the season.
“It was just about going with the flow for me. I pitched where the opportunity was given and I tried to have fun,” said Smith prior to Padres’ Future’s Game at Petco Park in October.
Smith had an up-and-down season pitching reasonably well in April and May while running into a wall (6.65 ERA) in June. Most of that damage came in a pair of starts, in which Smith allowed 14 earned runs in 5.1 innings. He ended June with arguably his best start of the season when he pitched five shutout innings in a win over Dayton.
“I just tried to go out there and play my game and do the things I do well. I just competed and tried to have fun each time out.”
Smith flourished in July, pitching to a 1.40 ERA in four starts, over 19.1 innings. The righty also threw five innings in three of the starts, as the organization seemed to loosen up the pitch count. Smith never threw more than 80 pitches in any game in 2016.
“In Fort Wayne, I learned that is really important to stay in shape and how to really work hard to do everything you can to be successful.”
Smith finished the 2016 season with a less-than-stellar overall line: 5.26 ERA, with 104 hits allowed in 90.2 innings but he did have his share of good moments that allowed the organization to see a talented pitcher who still has plenty of room for growth. Smith didn’t pitch in the Padres’ Future’s Game but was able to work on a few things heading into 2017.
“I mostly worked on keeping my balance and staying back more on my pitches. It worked really well. Plus it was an amazing experience to come out to Petco (Park) for instructs with all my new teammates. It was a good year.”null