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Top prospect countdown: #5 Nate Smith

MLB: Los Angeles Angels-Media Day Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Nate Smith-SP

Nate Smith was signed for the bargain price of $12,000 back in 2013 and with that came low expectations that Smith quickly exceeded. After his first full pro season in 2014, Smith was ranked the Angels #14 prospect and was invited to the Arizona Fall League. He has continued to rack up awards and in 2015 was the #3 prospect along with a mid AND post season All Star AND was named pitcher of the year for Arkansas. He followed that up in 2016 with an invite to play in the MLB Future’s game and was named a AAA All-Star. Smith’s climb has been noticeable and he was slated to see big league action late in 2016 before troubling elbow tendonitis shut down his season.

Smith is not an overpowering pitcher and isn’t the type of guy who’s going to blow away a roster on his way to 15 Ks. Instead, he relies on his 4 pitch arsenal, all of which he can throw for strikes, as well as mixing up his velocity and location well. His fastball sits around 90MPH which works great to set up his above average changeup that comes around 75MPH with late drop. His slider is just a bit stronger than his curveball, though both pitches are around average and can look similar at times. Smith gets the job done with movement and command more so than velocity and he has the strength and stamina to go late into games. He profiles as a 4th or 5th starter or swingman out of the bullpen.

In 2016, Smith had flashes of brilliance like on August 23rd when he allowed just 1 hit and zero walks over 7 solid innings. On the flip side, Smith tends to unravel at times and had 4 games were he gave up 6 or more runs. Smith isn’t really a shut out type pitcher as he does give up a fair amount of hits (almost 10 per 9 innings in 2016). Smith is only 25 years old and the change from his 2015 to 2016 seasons in Salt Lake was dramatic. His road stats were impressive and his record away from home in 2016 was 5-3 with a 3.74 ERA and 1.14 WHIP.

It’s not out of the question that Smith could earn an opening day roster spot if he has an impressive spring. Either way, it won’t be long before the lefty gets his big league debut some time in 2017.