Not Watching Burch Smith
Finally, there’s Burch Smith.
In theory Smith, who tossed more than 30 innings for the Padres in 2013, should be nearing readiness. But his status remains unclear because of the uncertainty surrounding his health and arsenal. Smith missed almost all of last season with a forearm issue. He did pitch in the AFL so, while we don’t have a frame of reference these days, the Rays have an idea of what his post-injury arsenal looks like. Still, even if Smith returned to his old form, there are lingering questions he must answer before becoming a big-league mainstay.
Before the injury Smith, whose face looks like a combination of Jamie Moyer and Jake Odorizzi, had a good fastball and lagging secondaries. His fastball, which sat around 92-93 mph and showed minimal movement during his big-league stay, played even faster due to deceptive mechanics that see him hide the ball and throw across his body. Alas, Smith’s command and other offerings don’t have the same quality—his changeup has shown some potential, but neither of his breaking balls have taken the necessary step forward. As a result, Smith’s future could very well come in the bullpen.
The Rays might not quit on the dream of Smith as a middle-of-the-rotation starter just yet—after all, the same organization has overseen the development and improvement of numerous young arms approaching the starter-reliever crossroads—and so don’t be surprised if he spends most of the season in Durham.