• Share on Google+
  • Share on Reddit
  • Share on Linkedin
  • Share on Tumblr

Selected by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the fifth round of the 2016 MLB Draft out of San Jacinto Junior College in Texas, left-handed pitcher Devin Smeltzer reached High-A Rancho Cucamonga this year, his first full summer in professional baseball. Across 26 starts (25 games) with Low-A Great Lakes and High-A Rancho in 2017, Smeltzer threw 142.1 innings and finished 7-7 with a 4.17 ERA. In that span, he allowed 147 hits (.261 opponents’ batting average) and 30 walks while striking out 159 hitters. An intense lefty with a very deep arsenal and the mindset to challenge hitters, Smeltzer is a good starting pitcher who, by virtue of being in the Dodgers’ deep organization, simply remains somewhat off the radar because there are so many talented pitching prospects around him.

Having just turned 22 years old (DOB: September 7, 1995), the lefty figures to start 2017 with Double-A Tulsa, and his strike-throwing ways and ability to challenge hitters with multiple pitches should continue to serve him well as he reaches the upper minors. Listed at 6’3″, 195 lbs., Devin Smeltzer is wiry with some room to add good weight to his frame, especially in his lower half, and that combined with modest mechanical refinements could see the already consistent pitcher further improve his stamina and likelihood to remain in the rotation. We saw the Los Angeles Dodgers prospect several times this summer; below is our full scouting report, tool grades, several videos, and some notes on Smeltzer’s future projection.

Devin Smeltzer, Los Angeles Dodgers — 2017 Scouting Report

Dates observed in 2017: July 30; August 25; September 2; September 7

Four-Seam Fastball (50)
Pretty standard four-seam look from a three-quarters angle. Modest arm-side run at times, but usually flat and straight. Won’t use it much after the first time through a lineup, opting instead to work off his two-seamer and cutter. Typically uses the four-seamer to elevate, or to dot the glove in 3-0/3-1 counts. Above-average command with it to both sides of the plate. Velocity: 91-92, T 93.

Two-Seam Fastball (50)
Good, consistent arm-side run with some sneaky velocity on occasion. When down in the zone, especially to his glove side, run and sink will both show very late. Has some feel for throwing it off the plate glove side and letting it run back over the corner, but not enough consistency there yet. Enough control that it never really gets away from him arm side as many two-seamers do with young pitchers. It’s a good complement to his changeup (more on that below). Long term, this will likely grade out as a better pitch than his four-seamer thanks to the late life. Velocity: 89-90, T 92.

Cutter (45)
He fell in love with it during one of my longer looks in September; he’ll use it to both RHH and LHH, with distinct pitch life form his slider so as to differentiate and mix the two. His best cutters mimic his two-seam action but go the other way (glove-side) though the cutter flattens out and loses vertical plane when it’s anywhere above the bottom third of the zone. Uses it to keep RHH honest in off the plate, and sets up his plus changeup away by backing them off early with cutters. For me, the cutter is below average on its own, in a vacuum, but it plays up in the context of Smeltzer’s entire arsenal, and specifically how he uses the cutter to set up the rest of his stuff. Velocity: 85-87,T 88.

Slider (40)
Distinct enough from his cutter with more depth and break; also slightly slower with more pronounced sweeping action. Good put-away pitch to LHH, but ought not use it much to RHH; tried to sneak one particularly memorable one down and in to Rockies prospect Brendan Rodgers (RHH) in September, and Rodgers hit it over the scoreboard. To that end, Smeltzer must pick his spots carefully and use it to get hitters off-balance. If he can sequence it well, there’s obvious value in having a true breaking ball along with the cutter. Cross-body mechanics help sell the pitch, especially to LHH who struggle to stay in on Smeltzer’s arm angle. Admittedly a 40-grade is probably slightly low, but Smeltzer doesn’t always throw it much and doesn’t show a ton of confidence with it. Velocity: 79-82, T 83.

Changeup (60)
Smeltzer’s best pitch across my looks. Tunnels it extremely well; it looks identical to his two-seam fastball both out of his hand and with late arm-side movement, only several miles per hour slower. Good tumble with late arm-side run; downward life even when he misses up in the strike zone. Remarkably good pitch for missing RHH bats; also draws consistent weak contact from RHH and LHH. Comfortable throwing it early in count to draw off-balance contact, or using it with two strikes as a put-away pitch. Very, very good arm action helps sell the changeup; Smeltzer throws the hell out of it with identical arm speed to his fastball through release; clearly trusts his grip to do the work. Velocity: 82-83, T 84.

Control/Command (60/50)
Will struggle a bit with missing out over the plate, but generally very consistent in throwing to the bottom third of the strike zone with his entire arsenal. Can go wild in mini-spurts as he loses his release point (more on that in mechanics, below), but tends to re-discover the zone quickly after losing it now and again. Off-speed command in particular is advanced for his age and level; pinpoint fastball command must catch up, but control is more than serviceable. Bulldog mentality helps here; Smeltzer likes to challenge hitters in most every count and will rarely work behind enough to get into too many three-ball counts. Pitches to contact early in the count, which helps account for low walk rates. Paradoxically, may find he throws too many strikes as he faces better hitters soon in upper minors.

Sets off to first base side of the rubber. Moves quickly through delivery to balance. Repetitive, fairly violent, delivery — especially for a starter. Lands closed off to plate, but with nearly on-line foot strike with toe pointing to first base batter’s box. Throws pretty significantly across his body, no doubt accounting for a good bit of deception, especially to LHH. High back elbow; inverted W. Three-quarters/high three-quarters release; that, along with his closed-off landing makes him an uncomfortable match-up for LHH. Can lose his release point at times across his body, and will over-extend to his glove-side as he adjusts. Sometimes spins pretty radically off to third base; doesn’t typically finish squared up to field his position but a good enough athlete to overcompensate in most cases.

Very, very visibly competitive on the field. Wears his heart on his sleeve and reacts openly—good and bad—to results of his pitches. Will call out hitters if he feels he’s being disrespected; won’t shy away from conflict. Consistently walks the fine line of channeling his emotion to produce positive or negative results. Without question some emotional growth to be done here, but I love his competitiveness. Throws with a visible intensity rare for a starting pitcher. Very quick pace of play with no one on base—almost like he’s racing a clock—but slows down considerably with runners on. Smeltzer is a tough kid; at age 9, overcame a rare form of prediatric cancer called pelvic rhabdomyosarcoma. He’s been in full remission since 2012.

Devin Smeltzer Scouting Report — 2017 Game Video

Devin Smeltzer Scouting Report — Notes & Analysis

Devin Smeltzer is a fiery, competitive guy with some stereotypical left-handed quirks; he’ll overachieve on raw talent and his deep arsenal, but the Los Angeles Dodgers have so many top-flight pitching prospects littered throughout their system right now that he’s lost in the shuffle, at least so far as outside evaluators are concerned. That’s a shame; he can pitch and he’s got a serious competitive fire when he takes the ball, making him a fun guy to evaluate and, I would imagine, a fun guy for teammates to play behind every fifth day. His changeup is advanced, and the combo of that with his two-seamer and cutter make Smeltzer the kind of guy who can carve up a lineup in a sneaky way: no mid-90s fastball, no hammer curveball, but you look up after six or seven innings and he’s whiffed nine guys with everyone else suffering weak contact.

He put together a legitimately impressive 2017; had he spent the entire year in either the Midwest League or the California League (the two levels he split), his 159 strikeouts would’ve led the Low-A circuit or been good enough for second-best out west. I’m not sure he’ll continue being such a prolific strikeout artist, though. In fact, he may be throwing too many strikes; absent a power wipeout pitch, even with the high strikeout rate, he’s in the zone a lot and that should allow hitters in the upper minors to find the barrel more often than opponents have so far. Nevertheless, further development of his arsenal—especially that changeup and cutter—will do well for the Los Angeles Dodgers prospect as he heads into 2018, and he’ll continue missing enough bats to succeed, even if he falls short of this season’s stellar 10.1 K/9 rate.

Devin Smeltzer Scouting Report — Future Projection

With the command profile and production Devin Smeltzer just put up in his first full season of pro ball, there’s little question he should continue to start games for the foreseeable future. He’s another good pitching prospect in a Los Angeles Dodgers system littered with them right now, but look past prospect lists and you’ll find a consistent, competitive lefty who should give himself a shot to start in the Majors in a couple years. At his ceiling, I think Smeltzer has a legitimate chance to fill out a back-end rotation role in the big leagues; short of that he’s got a deep enough arsenal and ability to sequence that he could fill a swingman/spot starter role.

Of course, his left-handedness and cross-body deception with big strikeout totals could point Smeltzer towards a lefty specialist role, too. His relatively violent, max effort delivery and deep arsenal could play up in short stints (and he’d likely pick two or three of his five pitches and perfect those), but I think 2018 is premature to move him to the bullpen. To me, Smeltzer is one of those guys with a unique enough track record and profile that he should stay in the rotation until he fails. If he succeeds his way all the way up to Los Angeles, then the Dodgers have themselves yet another good pitching prospect.

Overall Future Potential (Future Value): Back-end rotation ceiling with matchup potential for swingman/relief work (47.5/50)

MLB ETA: 2019


Get more on Los Angeles Dodgers prospects:

Team Page | News Archives | Facebook Page | Twitter Account

Follow Baseball Census on social media:

Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | Instagram | Google+

  • Share on Google+
  • Share on Reddit
  • Share on Linkedin
  • Share on Tumblr

Bobby DeMuro

Bobby DeMuro is the founder of Baseball Census, the author of We Is Blaze, (obviously) a fan of minor league baseball, and an unlikely expert on the animated classic TV show King Of The Hill. For more on Bobby and the personal, human side of this site, follow him on Twitter and Facebook: @BobbyDeMuro.

Load More Related Articles
Load More By Bobby DeMuro
Load More In Arizona League Dodgers

Leave a Reply

Check Also

Los Angeles Dodgers: DJ Peters talk about growing up a Dodgers fan in AFL interview

Scottsdale, Arizona —— On Thursday night out at Salt River Fields in Scottsdale, we caught…