Q&A: 3rd Round RHP Drew Smith

The Tigers selected hard-throwing right-hander Drew Smith out of Dallas Baptist University in the third round of the 2015 draft. The Texas native talked with TigsTown about his draft experience and his future role in pro ball.

TigsTown: How did it feel to get drafted?
Drew Smith: It was a pretty crazy experience those two days, because there was a chance I could go in the late 2nd round so I was watching. Not getting picked up (on day one), you know, it wasn’t anything I didn’t expect, there was just kind of a chance. I had to wait until the next day so that was pretty nerve-wracking. I got about four hours of sleep that night and had to wake up early to take my buddy to the airport, and I couldn’t go back to sleep so I just sat around waiting for it to start. And then once I finally heard my name called it was...I mean it was the greatest feeling. I didn’t expect it at all, you know? The Tigers had contacted me a couple weeks ago, but they hadn’t talked to me since, so they weren’t even on my radar. When I heard my name called, it was awesome.

TigsTown: So you didn’t know the Tigers were interested?
DS: My advisor said that they were really interested and all that stuff, but they hadn’t contacted me in a couple weeks. They called me in May but I didn’t really talk to them much after that, and then they just picked me. They called me after they picked me, they didn’t call me before. They were like,”We knew you’d sign if we drafted you in the 3rd round, so there was no need to even call you, so we just went ahead and picked you.” I was like “Yes, That’s perfectly fine with me!”

TigsTown: What do you know about the Tigers?
DS: Well, I know that they particularly like hard-throwing righties, and it looks like I fit that category. Being drafted by them honestly shouldn’t have been a surprise at all because they really like that and I had a buddy last year at DBU, Paul Voelker, he got drafted by the Tigers. He’s doing really well. So it’s a great feeling, I know that they really like hard-throwing righties, and I could be either a starter or a reliever for them. Whatever they want me to do is what I’ll do, but I fit the profile.

TigsTown: So do you know in which role they plan on using you?
DS: I’ve heard both. I talked to David Chadd and they said they could see me as a starter or as a reliever. They might try to start me out a little bit, and then if something changes, or if I’m doing well, it just depends on the situation, they could stick me in the bullpen. It’s a faster track, it just depends on a lot of things. But they said they see me as both. I’m really versatile, they said, so it just depends on really what they want to do with me.

TigsTown: What are you signing plans?
DS: I’m heading down there (Lakeland) on Wednesday and I’m doing a physical, and then contract. So, that’s the plan. And then they said, probably within a few days I’d go up to Connecticut.

TigsTown: What kind of pitches do you throw?
DS: I throw a four-seam fastball, a pretty hard 12-6 curveball, and then a circle changeup. This year I just mainly relied on the fastball and curveball coming out of the bullpen. I didn’t really get to use my changeup that much, but I still consider that a good pitch. My curveball -- I can use either one as my out pitch -- but if I had to choose one, I like throwing my curveball. It’s been really good for me this year, and I developed it a lot over the past two years. I’ll start ‘em off trying to throw a first-pitch strike (with the curve), and then I can go fastball, and when I get back to two strikes I just try to spin that in the dirt and get the swing and miss on it.

TigsTown: What do you want to work on in the pros?
DS: I feel like I have a good changeup, I just didn’t get to throw it as much this year, and I really want to get that back and start throwing that more. Because even out of the bullpen, I feel like if you can show that it’d be a really good equalizer. It’s a great pitch if you can throw it for a strike, and I’d really like to work on that more.

TigsTown: Do you pattern your pitching style after anyone?
DS: For a while it was, I mean it still is, but now that I’m in the bullpen it’s a little different, but it was Justin Verlander, so it’s funny how that works out. But yeah, I just compared myself to him a lot because we both had pretty power fastballs and I have a really good breaking ball, a solid changeup, and just the way he threw in games. He usually got stronger as the game went on, and that’s how I was when I started. I would show my best velo usually later in the game, and it would get better as it went on, so I really tried to pitch like he did.

TigsTown: How was your college experience?
DS: I couldn’t have asked to go to a better place, development wise. I was really undersized, I was about 6’1, 150 lbs. coming out of high school so I knew I needed three years to develop, and DBU was a great place for that. So I put on about 40 pounds over my three years there...gained a lot of velocity, things like that. Last year I started quite a bit, I think about eight games or so. I battled a little injury that kept me out for about a month. I came back from that and was in the bullpen for the rest of the year. And then this year I was scheduled to start again. I was gonna be the Saturday guy to start the season, and about five days before the season started my coach asked me to be in the bullpen because that’s what the team needed. So, I took that and ran with it, and thought I did as good as I could. I got one spot start, but you know the bullpen, I really enjoyed it, it was really fun.

TigsTown: There were a lot of players drafted from DBU, right?
DS: Yeah, there was me, Brandon Koch, and Chance Adams. We all throw pretty hard, we had two starters who threw pretty hard as well, and we all got drafted in the top-12 rounds. Pretty cool. And then we had a couple of position players drafted. It was a good year for us.

TigsTown: Any people instrumental to getting you to this point?
DS: Obviously my dad, he’s been there through everything. But as far as instruction, I’d have to say my pitching coach at DBU, Wes Johnson. He’s done a lot for me, a lot with me. He’s extremely, extremely intelligent, and knows - he actually never pitched, which is the weird thing, he just studies it so much, and knows so much about it - and he helped me out tremendously, just with the mechanics, and more so the mental mindset of it though. He prides himself on getting guys ready mentally, and that’s what he did for me, and I’ll never forget that. That’s something I’ll carry with me throughout pro ball.

TigsTown: Where are you from originally?
DS: I’m from Crowley, Texas. It’s a little small town southwest of Fort Worth. It’s probably about 8,000 people. It’s relatively small.

TigsTown: Did you play anything else in high school?
DS: Not in high school. I played basketball and football in middle school, and I was gonna pursue both of those in high school, but...clearly baseball was my path. So I sat down with my dad and talked to him and decided to give all my attention to baseball if I really wanted to have a shot at going to Division I or being a professional, so that’s what I did.

TigsTown: Any other athletes in the family?
Me and my brother are completely opposite. He’s older than me and he’s into the music and all that, but my dad, he played football in college at Hanover College in Indiana. A small, Division II, or Division III school back then actually. He played baseball a little bit, but I’m really the only baseball player in my family, which is kind of weird.

TigsTown: What are you favorite things to do when not playing baseball?
DS: I really love to fish...hunting, anything outdoors. Being from Texas, bass fishing is a big deal down here and I love it. Whenever I have the opportunity to I’ll go fish. And I enjoy playing golf and stuff if I can. I haven’t really been able to much, because of baseball, but anything outside. I really like ping-pong too. Anything competitive, really. I’m really competitive, and I just find that stuff fun.

TigsTown: Favorite food?
DS: I love Chipotle. Mexican food would probably be number one.

TigsTown: Favorite movie?
DS: The new one that just came out, American Sniper. I thought that was a tremendous movie, awesome.

TigsTown: What kind of music do you like?
DS: Texas country music. It is very regionalized. I mean, mainly just down here people listen to it. Nobody probably knows the people I listen to, but it’s where I’m from. The big ones right now are like Cody Johnson Band, and Josh Abbott, Randy Rogers, stuff like that. And then Pat Green. I mean, he’s still Texas country, but he was really Texas country when he first came up.

TigsTown: Any special skills or talents?
DS: I’m a pretty normal kid. I have no musical talent whatsoever. I can’t even whistle.

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