The Coming Tide of Southpaws

Rich Lederer over at The Baseball Analysts has an interesting analysis of one of our young hurlers pitching at double-A. Should we consider him a prospect?

Dan Smith is a reliever-turned-starter who has been extremely effective in his new role this month. After striking out six in two scoreless innings of relief on July 28, the 6-foot-5 left-hander has thrown 21 2/3 frames over four starts while allowing just 13 hits, eight walks, and two earned runs (0.83 ERA). Smith has K'd 93 batters in 62 1/3 IP on the year (split between High-A and Double-A), giving up just three HR. An undrafted free agent, the soon-to-be 23-year-old was signed by the Braves in 2003 and has worked his way through the system almost exclusively in relief until getting a chance to start three weeks ago.

Many of his numbers are solid as Rich points out. He does fail to mention that Smith has also walked more than one batter every two innings and encountered a bit of wildness with six wild pitches. Still, he has been given steady promotion each year he's been in the system. At his current pace he would reach the Majors by the middle of 2008.

He is another of the emerging crop of Braves left-handed pitching prospects that are going to make their way through the system in the next few years, along with Matt Harrison, Jo-Jo Reyes, Beau Jones, and newly drafted lefties Kevin Gunderson (Talking Chop fave), Steve Evarts, Jeffrey Locke, and Chad Rodgers. This was a major focus of the 2006 draft for the Braves, as five out of their first ten picks were left-handed pitchers. By 2009 to 2010 we could see a Braves rotation composed of up to four left-handers, and a bullpen that is made up of three or four left-handers.

Here is a great picture of Kevin Gunderson by T.Y. Chen, who has tons of great pictures of OSU baseball and their road to Omaha and the CWS championship. Check them out here.

By the way, there have been three other Dan Smith's that have played professional baseball. All of them were pitchers, two made it to the Majors, and one of them played for the Braves at Richmond in 2000.

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