DETROIT, MI - APRIL 12: Drew Smyly #33 of the Detroit Tigers pitches in his major league debut in the first inning during the game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Comerica Park on April 12, 2012 in Detroit, Michigan.The Tigers defeated the Rays 7-2. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
Prospect of the Day: Drew Smyly, LHP, Detroit Tigers
Detroit Tigers rookie lefty Drew Smyly made his major league debut last Thursday, allowing one run in four-plus innings, giving up four hits and three walks before being removed for pitch-count purposes. Command is normally a positive asset for him, responsible for his rise from the college ranks to the major leagues in less than two years.
Smyly had a fine season for the University of Arkansas in 2010, going 9-1, 2.80 ERA with a 114/36 K/BB in 103 innings with 85 hits allowed. Drafted in the second round by the Tigers as a draft-eligible sophomore, he signed too late to pitch that year but made his pro debut in 2011 with High-A Lakeland in the Florida State League.
He was quite strong at that level, going 7-3, 2.58 ERA with a 77/21 K/BB in 80 innings. Promoted to Double-A in late July, he went 4-3 in seven starts but with a sharp 1.18 ERA and a 53/15 K/BB in 46 innings with 32 hits allowed. He was impressive this spring and earned a spot in the Tigers rotation, seeing action in one Triple-A game for Toledo for "get some innings" purposes before official promotion to the big league roster last week.
Smyly is a 6-3, 190 pound left-handed hitter and thrower, born June 13, 1989. His fastball isn't a burner at 87-92 MPH, averaging right around 90, but it works well due to the contrast with his secondary pitches: a slider, a cutter, a changeup with dropping action, and an occasional curve. He isn't afraid to use his fastball and his pitches have good deception. An efficient strike-thrower in the minors, he had location issues in his first start last week, but once he settles in, command should be one of his best attributes. His main weakness may be health: he had a stress fracture in his elbow in college, and he missed several weeks of pitching time early last season with a dead arm.
The Tigers usually handle their pitching prospects aggressively, so it isn't out of character for them to give Smyly a major league opportunity with just a handful of innings in the high minors. Although he doesn't have the fastball of a stereotypical ace, he profiles well as a mid-rotation starter, assuming good health.