As I noted at the end of last week, the competition for the final spot in the Detroit Tigers rotation was down to left-handers Drew Smyly and Duane Below, with the latter serving as the low-risk, conservative option.
However, despite having never thrown a pitch above Double-A, the Detroit Tigers will employ left-hander Drew Smyly as their fifth starter to begin the 2012 season.
In the end, Smyly’s dazzling spring made it difficult for the Tigers—a team with a notorious reputation for promoting young pitchers ahead of schedule—to pass on their No. 3 prospect.
Selected in the second round of the 2010 draft out of Arkansas, the 6'3", 190-pound left-hander was dominant in his first minor league season. Splitting time between High-A Lakeland and Double-A Erie, Smyly, 22, posted an 11-6 record with a 2.07 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and 130/36 K/BB ratio over 126 innings.
As he demonstrated during his time at Arkansas, Smyly is adept to attacking hitters with his 87-92 mph two-seam fastball with arm-side run, which aids the effectiveness of his other offerings.
The left-hander features two breaking balls—a curveball and slider—that have been equally effective at times and offer a different look as he works deeper into the game. Smyly also throws a hard, mid-80s cutter that neutralizes right-handed hitters.
But what really works in Smyly's favor is the fact that he's been exceptional all spring. Appearing in four games for the Tigers, he currently sports a 2.84 ERA and 0.95 WHIP over 12.2 innings. Furthermore, he's fanned 10 and walked five while posting a 2.13 GO/AO.
It’s still unclear how Smyly will factor into the Tigers’ season-long plans or whether he will merely serve as the team’s fifth starter on an as-needed basis. Detroit won’t need a fifth starter until April 12 against the Tampa Bay Rays, so Smyly will make one final minor league tune-up prior to making his MLB debut.
Given the lack of left-handers in Detroit’s rotation, Smyly should have the potential to stick if he’s successful early on.