2012 MLB Draft Q & A: Matt Smoral

We continue our 2012 MLB Draft Q & A series with an interview with prep pitcher Matt Smoral of Solon High School in Solon, Ohio. Smoral is ranked as the #18 draft prospect by Scout's Frankie Piliere and is projected to be a first round pick. Inside he discusses his commitment to North Carolina, how he intends to handle the draft process, how his Dad has influenced him as an athlete and more.

For a complete scouting report on Smoral by Scout.com's National Baseball Expert Frankie Piliere, see: 2012 Draft Scouting Report: Matt Smoral

For scouting video of Smoral, see: 2012 MLB Draft Scouting Video: Matt Smoral


Rays Digest: What kind of pitches do you throw? Which one have you had the most success with?

Matt Smoral: I throw a four-seam fastball, a slider, a changeup and a two-seam fastball. Recently I thought I've had the most success with my slider. It's gotten a lot better over the past two years or so. My fastball and my slider would be my go to pitches.

Rays Digest: What speed do you usually throw those at?

Matt Smoral: I usually sit in the low 90s with my fastball and touch maybe the mid-90s. My slider is in the mid-80s.

Rays Digest: You're a pretty tall guy at 6'8" and have the classic projectable frame. How hard is it for you to repeat your delivery and is it something you try to focus on given your height?

Matt Smoral: That is one thing I've kind of struggled with. Throughout my high school career, as I've gotten more mature and I've grown, and finally stopped growing, that's what I worked on - trying to repeat my delivery. My junior year and a little bit of last summer, it was difficult to repeat my delivery. [I was] not getting on top of the ball in time. But that's what I've been working on a lot, repeating my delivery and doing the same thing every time, because it is hard.

Rays Digest: How many times a week do you workout during the season and the off-season?

Matt Smoral: In the off-season, I was working out five days a week with a trainer up here in Ohio and then I'd do a yoga class on Sundays. In-season, I try to workout at least three times during the week, as well as getting in my running.

Rays Digest: You are committed to North Carolina. What made UNC stick out over other schools and what made you choose them?

Matt Smoral: It was the first school I visited and right when I got there I knew that it was the place I wanted to be. The main things that really jumped out to me were the coaches, how comfortable I felt talking with them and just being around them, as well as the program. It's a very good program and they've got a beautiful campus there. It's a place where I could see myself if I wasn't playing baseball and they've got great academics there as well.

Rays Digest: Obviously you're focused on your current season and looking ahead at North Carolina, but you're also being talked about as a potential high first round pick. Have you made any preparations looking at the draft and do you have representation at all?

Matt Smoral: Right now I'm preparing a 100 percent to go to North Carolina. My family and I are obviously going to see what happens in June to make the best decision possible. They're both great options and I don't think I can make a wrong decision going either way. I just have to wait out and see what happens, and make the right decision.

Rays Digest: You and your family - if a team decides to draft you, what kind of things are you looking for to make that decision?

Matt Smoral: Obviously one of the biggest things is their player development system. How they've developed pitchers in recent years and the developing process. As well as the money part of it. It's going to take a lot to draw me away from such a great opportunity at North Carolina. With all factors going into it, like I said, I just want to take everything in and make the right decision.

Rays Digest: Going back to high school - I read that you're a good student as well. Are academics something that's really important to you? Obviously North Carolina is a prestigious school, so is that something that influenced your decision to go there as well?

Matt Smoral: I tried to pick a university that has very good academics too. A degree from North Carolina would be great. That's one of the main reasons why I'm going to college is to get the degree. My mom is a teacher and academics are a big part of our family. So that was definitely a big factor.

Rays Digest: As far as influences on you as a player and person, who has helped you become the player that you are today?

Matt Smoral: Probably the biggest influence on me has been my dad. He played basketball at North Carolina State. He's always been pushing me in athletics, just trying to make me the best player possible. He's always been there for me with anything I need and helping me in any way to do the best I can. As well as my Aunt, Katie Dannemiller. She works with the Marlins Class-A team, the Greensboro Grasshoppers. I grew up around baseball, because she was with a minor league club. Seeing the players and going down to the ballpark were definitely a big influence on me.

Rays Digest: You said your dad was a basketball player. Did he push you towards playing basketball, or was he always open with you playing baseball and encourage you to do athletics in general?

Matt Smoral: He just wanted me to do athletics in general, for me to pick what sport I liked best. I chose baseball and I did used to play basketball. I was a pretty good player, but I just decided to give it up to focus on baseball and work as hard as I can.

Rays Digest: Looking at baseball, do you have a favorite team and are there any players that have influenced you as well?

Matt Smoral: I have to go with the Tribe. I've been here in Cleveland for about 13 years now and we're season ticket holders there. I love watching the Cleveland Indians every night. As far as players go - Nolan Ryan and Randy Johnson were always two of my favorites. This goes off their competiveness and how they broke through the barriers, as well as Randy Johnson just being a tall lefty. That's what I aspire to be one day too, just like him.

Rays Digest: A lot of people have compared you to Justin Masterson as well, as far as getting K's and groundballs. Is that somebody you personally look at to improve yourself?

Matt Smoral: I've watched him a lot. I have a lot of sink on my ball, just trying to get groundballs. They can help a lot, turning double plays, things like that. I'd say I'm a groundball pitcher and also strikeouts as well. Strikeouts are a huge part of the game. When you know you got runners on base and you can get a strikeout, that's definitely good.

Rays Digest: Have there been any particular highlights of your high school career that stand out?

Matt Smoral: I think the biggest highlight was definitely when I was at the Perfect Game All-American game out in San Diego. Just being with all these other top prospects and getting to meet them. You hear people talking about what's going on around the country. You know them on a personal level. Also, just getting to compete against them. Getting to compete against the best players in the country, it can't get any better than that.

Rays Digest: Are there any pre-draft showcases that you're attending, and which ones?

Matt Smoral: No, I'm not planning on going to any pre-draft showcases after my season.

Marc Nemcik is the MLB Draft correspondent for Rays Digest. You can follow him on Twitter at @marcnemcik


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