Matthew Smoral was once considered to be interchangeable with Max Fried as the top High School LHP. That was until this season when he has struggled with some blisters and a foot injury. His first game of the season was cut short in the fourth inning due to blisters causing him to lose control and rely solely on his fastball that was a little slower than normal. It's one start, but that can hurt your stock when about 30 cross-checkers are in attendance.
What makes him such a prospect? Just look at him. He stands 6-8 and weighs 225 pounds...soaking wet. He's long and lanky, but is working hard to gain weight and it's paying off. Despite being from Ohio, he worked out this summer in Houston with David Evans while playing with the Houston Heat traveling baseball team. That's where he met Mitchell Traver, whom David profiled yesterday. He focused on getting stronger, using his legs, and repeating his mechanics to control his secondary pitches. Sounds like a perfect goal to me for a high school kid.
Despite not pitching a whole lot this season, it looks like he is repeating his low 3/4 arm slot. His mechanics look pretty clean as well. There are a few flaws, like being too stiff and losing his balance in the follow through, but those issues are improving. His plant foot is also inconsistent causing him to land with his stance a little open as well. All of these are minor issues that a professional pitching coach can get cleaned up in Instructional League since he is an athletic kid.
His fastball ranges in the low 90's in most starts and can touch 94. From the left side, that is great velocity and because he has a good frame, he likely could hit that velocity more consistently. His second best pitch is a slider. With his low arm slot, he gets really good movement on it, but the issue is that his arm slot causes him to get too much on the side of the ball at times so the pitch has great horizontal movement, but lacks in vertical drop. Change-up is really raw but shows good signs. He hasn't used it much in a lot of his big starts, so it's pretty hard to project.
He already has an injury history from this season with a foot injury. Guys this large can struggle with lower extremity injuries, especially with the feet. That lowers his floor quite a bit. But, you have to think that with a fastball in the mid-90s and a real good slider that can dominate hitters, you have to like him as a late inning bullpen guy, or the best LOOGY you can find.
If the fastball velocity does improve and the change-up becomes an above-average pitch, your looking at a top of the rotation pitcher. His upside is the reason his name is usually associated with Max Fried when talking the 2012 draft. Fried is much more polished, but Smoral could have better upside in the long term. His low arm slot and repatoire has earned him some comps to Madison Bumgarner, I wouldn't mind that.
Projected Draft Round
Originally tagged as a top 15 pick, Smoral figures to drop into the second half of the 1st round with a small chance of the supplemental round. If he were to last that long, this is the only time in which the Astros would likely consider drafting him. I just can't fathom him lasting to the second round.
Will he sign?
Probably. He's committed to University of North Carolina which is a solid commitment, but he seems dedicated to the game and wants to apply himself to it professionally right now. Although, if the injury makes him fall too far, going to college and proving his health could skyrocket his stock.
Bibliography after the jump
Matthew Smoral is a 2012 LHP with a 6-8 225 lb. frame from Solon, OH who attends Solon HS. XX Tall build, wide hips, narrow upper half with lots of room to grow, young body. Tall balanced delivery, low effort, very loose and free arm, clean arm circle, 3/4's arm slot, occasionally falls off on release, throws from the 3B side of the rubber and loses angle to his pitches, especially to left handed hitters. 90-93 mph fastball, touched 94, flashes hard boring life at times, good sink at others. Curveball has hard plus spin when thrown hard, will let up on curveball at times, rare change up. Better command of pitches to right handed hitters, tends to pitch passively to left handed hitters. Very high ceiling talent, has all the tools. Good student, verbal commitment to North Carolina. Named to the Perfect Game All American Classic team.
Smoral made just three outings this spring before his season ended due to a stress fracture in his right (and thus landing) foot that occurred when he was pitching on a makeshift mound in a game played on a football field in March. Before that, Smoral had pitched like a potential top-10 overall pick, touching 95, sitting 89-93 with plus life and a hard out-pitch slider, even showing the ability to pitch to his glove side with the fastball.
Smoral has an imposing presence on the mound, standing 6-foot-8 and 225 pounds. His height along with his low three-quarter arm slot from the left side makes him tough to pick up. His stuff doesn't make it any easier for hitters. Smoral throws a fastball in the 89-92 mph range and tops out at 94. Smoral also throws a slider in the 81-84 mph range and a changeup with similar velocity. His low arm slot causes him to sometimes get around his slider, but when he stays on top of it, it's a tight pitch with late break. Like many big pitchers, Smoral is still growing into his frame and learning how to control his delivery. He currently lands a little open and a little stiff, sometimes stumbling off the mound in his follow through. This causes his control to come and go, but when he's on, his stuff is dominating. Smoral has the athleticism to smooth things out. His father, Steve, was a basketball player at North Carolina State, but Matt is committed to North Carolina.