AMP Mailbag: Fast movers and underdogs

RHP Kyle Smith - Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

This week's edition of the AMP Mailbag brings us questions related to the new draft class and an oft-overlooked little hurler...

The actual AMP podcast has passed into podcast heaven now, but the mailbag will live on, same AMP time, same AMP channel. If anyone has a question for the AMP Mailbag, leave it in the comments section below, or in the comments of a Minor League recap, or tweet it to me. The best place will be the comments section of the Mailbag, as we'll definitely be scouring it to make sure we don't miss any questions.

taris1

2014 draft; which player has the best chance to make it make it to the majors first?

If you believe Richard Justice, you might say Brady Aiken. But I'm not quite that hopeful, and he still hasn't even officially signed yet.

As others have already discussed, A.J. Reed is the safe bet. He's a college hitter with considerable polish and tremendous power, and unlike a lot of slugging bats, isn't terribly prone to strike outs either.

For a familiar comparison, he could certainly take the Preston Tucker route to the Majors. Tucker, of course, has less than three full seasons in the system and has already worked his way up to AAA, and Reed might be able to move even faster. Don't be shocked if he's already in AA by the end of 2015, and being given a real chance to win a job with the MLB club out of 2016 Spring Training.

CRPerry13

Who is your "most overlooked" prospect in the Astros' farm right now - one who looks like he has a solid ML future, but who nobody is talking about?

I've been racking my brain for a while trying to figure out how to answer this, and it just dawned on me that it's such a hard question to answer because all our readers and writers are so in-tuned with the Minors that it's hard for a guy to slip under the radar. While that makes this hard for me, it makes me a bit happy as well.

I could snatch the name of some guy who's hot right now, like Tyler White, but that doesn't really fit the "solid ML future" aspect, as he's likely just beating up on inferior A-ball pitchers and will get exposed at the next level.

After a good deal of thought, I think I'm going to go with Kyle Smith (honorable mention goes to Jandel Gustave). Now, I know that virtually all of you reading this have heard of him and follow him, and remember the trade with the Royals that we completed to nab him. But how much are people talking about him? Not much, in my estimation.

Haven't we been talking much more about Thomas Shirley and Brady Rodgers? Heck, Mike Hauschild and David Rollins have been discussed more often recently. This might be unfair to Smith, who really is a better prospect than all of those guys, save maybe Rodgers, and that's arguable.

Smith started off the season in the pitcher's graveyard known as the California League, and all he did was post a 2.60 ERA in seven games there. Then, as a 22-year-old, he moved up to AA for the first time in his career, and so far, things are going swimmingly; he owns a 3.24 ERA, 1.94 BB/9 and 10.15 K/9 in eight games for the Hooks.

But...he can't seem to get much love. People whine about his height, his lack of velocity, the fact that he's a right-hander with a good change...and on and on. While these things do limit his ceiling, he's been close to ignored for a while now, and he certainly has MLB rotation upside.

He was not ranked and not even mentioned by Baseball Prospectus when discussing Astros top prospects pre-season, and he continues to get ignored in their daily Minor League recap updates. He was ranked 18th by MLB.com, and just 22nd by Baseball America, entering the season. John Sickles at Minor League Ball was a little more generous, but still had him outside the top 15 at #16.

Yet despite all this, these publications admit that he throw strikes, is fearless, has a plus curve ball and a solid changeup, and has an excellent feel for pitching, making everything else play up even more.

But he can't hit 95 on the radar gun, so no one takes notice. If he did, if he threw just two MPH faster even, people would be all over him. Heck, Baseball Prospectus lists his most comparable player as Jarrod Parker, a former top prospect who is currently a very solid young pitcher for one of the best teams in baseball. But Smith is short and rarely throws harder than 92, so he's mostly passed over. Because short guys who can't throw hard like Lincecum never do anything, right?

I'll end with this final line from his profile in the 2014 Baseball America Prospect Handbook, where they ranked Smith as less of a prospect than Jake Buchanan and Kevin Chapman:

"He'll have to prove it every step up the ladder, including in 2014 at Double-A Corpus Christi."

I'd say he's doing that right now. It's time everyone took notice.

What do you folks think? How much do you like Smith? Any other guys you think are legit prospects that are even more overlooked?

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