Scouting Yankees Prospect #38: Caleb Smith

The Yankees drafted left-handed pitcher Caleb Smith in the 14th round of the 2013 MLB Draft out of Sam Houston State University. He has put up some dominating performances over the past two seasons and his stuff continues to get better, so much so that he has become one of the better 'sleeper' prospects in the entire farm system.

[Photo by Mark Lomoglio

Vital Statistics:
Name: Caleb Smith
Position: Pitcher
DOB: July 28, 1991
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 185
Bats: Right
Throws: Left

He followed up his great debut season that saw him post a 1.89 ERA for the Staten Island Yankees in 2013 with a combined 10-9 record, 3.67 ERA, and 116 strikeouts in 117.2 innings between low-A Charleston and high-A Tampa last season.

"I feel like it was a pretty good year for the most part," he said. "Towards the end of the year my arm got kind of tired and I struggled a little bit but for the most part I felt like it was a really good year."

He wasn't nearly as good in the Florida State League as he was in the South Atlantic League, posting a 4.81 ERA for the Tampa Yankees compared to his 3.10 ERA with the Charleston RiverDogs, but it was also his first full season pitching as many innings as he did.

It wasn't as if he didn't have his fair share of struggles at the low-A level either though. He was dominant to begin the season, posting a miniscule 1.51 ERA through his first ten starts before posting an 8.64 ERA over his ensuing five starts. Like most young minor league pitchers getting off to such a hot start, it was kind of hard dealing with not getting promoted initially.

"It was definitely frustrating but I don't think I tried any harder," he said. "I just went out there and did the same thing that I always do. I can't control if I move up or not so I have to do the same thing everyday and try not to think about those things, and just try to put up good numbers and give my team the best chance to win."

There were some definite inconsistencies in the numbers in his first full season but behind the stats there was significant progress made. He entered the season with a plus fastball-plus changeup combination and was seeking a reliable third pitch, and it definitely came to him over the course of the 2014 campaign.

"Yes, I felt like I could throw that pitch in any count." he said of his slider. "I got to the point that if it was a 3-2 count I felt like I could throw that pitch and get a ground ball or get a strikeout, throw it for a strike.

"That was a big key to my success early in the year. My changeup has always been better but it's gotten to the point now where my slider is just effective as my changeup is so that really helped me out a lot."

His slider became such an effective weapon in relatively quick fashion that he and the Yankees decided to start working on a curveball too. And just like his slider was a developing pitch for him a year ago, the curveball shows similar long-term potential.

"I started throwing a curveball when I got to Tampa," he revealed. "It's actually coming along really well right now. I didn't throw it that much in Tampa. I maybe threw it four or five times in Tampa, maybe once or twice in games just to get the feel for it.

"Every curveball I threw though was a strike with that good 12-6 depth. It's coming along well. I think it's going to round me as a pitcher really well. I think it's going be a big weapon for me to have and a big thing to work on this coming season."

Stuff-wise there is a lot to be excited about with Smith. He realizes that he has some work to do in the consistency department and further improving the command of all of his pitches will help in that regard. However, he can't help but feel that his game is trending upward and that he is getting folks to take notice.

"I feel like I'm getting my name out there, starting to show that I'm better than what they saw [initially]. I'm just trying to prove myself. I feel like if you work hard enough, if you have a good work ethic and are willing to put in the time and the effort, and set your goals high enough, then the sky's the limit," he concluded.

Year

Team

W-L

SV

IP

H

BB

SO

ERA

2014

Tampa

5-2

0

39.1

39

11

36

4.81

2014

Charleston

5-7

0

78.1

60

35

80

3.10

2013

Trenton

0-0

0

3.2

3

1

5

2.45

2013

Staten Island

1-2

0

47.2

33

15

52

1.89



Repertoire. Fastball, Changeup, Slider, Curveball.

Fastball. Velocity-wise and from the movement it generates, Smith's fastball, a two-seamer, is a plus big league pitch for a left-handed hurler. It sits mostly in the 91-94 mph range with a lot of late-life explosion and great downward movement, and he even touched 95-96 mph a few times. His fastball is incredibly hard for batters to barrel up and not pound it in the dirt. There is a downside to all of the movement he gets with his fastball, however, and that is he can't always command it as consistently as he would like. He also did noticeably tire as the season went on too, showing some 88-91 mph ranges late in the year but it isn't too much of a long-term concern as he gets more accustomed to pitching later in the season.

Other Pitches. What makes Smith's fastball even more deceptive is his plus changeup, another pitch that bottoms out. It will sit anywhere from 79-84 mph and unlike his fastball he can command his changeup seemingly at will. It's both a strikeout pitch and a contact out-pitch, and his slider has developed to nearly the same level. More above average than a plus pitch right now, it will range anywhere from 81-86 mph with a lot of late break, and it too serves as both a contact and strikeout pitch. He rounds out his repertoire with a brand new curveball which, like his other pitches, gets fantastic movement. It's a true 12 to 6 knee bender in the 78-80 mph range that he can throw for strikes already, but it's yet another pitch that he doesn't quite command as well yet because of the movement it generates.

Pitching. Smith's game is all about power, movement, and deception, and what makes him equally tough to face is his rather quick tempo on the mound too. He goes right after batters with an array of pitches that all break planes, most of which move down in the strike zone. That helps him be really adept at keeping the ball in the yard [he's given up just six home runs in 169 career innings] and and when he misses the zone he's usually missing down. The flip side to that coin, however, is he can walk a few too many batters when he's not able to command his pitches but he is almost always one strike away from getting out of trouble with his ability to induce a lot of double-plays. He shows a good pickoff move too and he's proven to be extremely coachable [as evidenced by adding two big league pitches in a little more than a year]. Aside from further bettering his command he will have to be able to increase his stamina so he can maintain his velocity throughout the course of a full season.

Projection. Stuff-wise Smith provides a lot of long-term role flexibility. He has the power fastball that could be even more powerful theoretically in shorter one inning relief stints and he now has two breaking pitches that can help negate lefties. Throw in a devastating changeup [he is still more effective against right-handed batters], he could eventually slide is an as power left-handed setup man someday if stamina as a starting pitcher becomes an issue. However, with four big league pitches, all of which can serve as a strikeout pitch, he has the stuff to work his way through a lineup multiple times and would fit in nicely as a potential middle of the rotation big league starter. Fine-tuning his command and increasing his season-long endurance would go a long way towards tapping his starting potential.

ETA. 2016. Despite the lackluster numbers in Tampa late last season he isn't too far from being ready to tackle the Double-A level. Even if he begins the season back in high-A initially, expect to see him get ample time in Trenton in 2015.


Pinstripes Plus Top Stories