Thursday, June 29, 2017


Meet Caleb Smith, the Yankees' Triple A leader in wins, strikeouts and being upstaged by bigger names.

Photo: / Stephen Pellegrino
He's got the 2nd best WHIP, 3rd best ERA and he's tied for 8th most strikeouts in the entire International League, as a matter of fact. He was good enough to help lead the Yankee's  Double A Trenton Thunder to a run at a championship last season. Good enough to prompt the Cubs to pull a winter bait-and switch with the Brewers when the Yankees left him unprotected just to get a close-up look-see at him in spring training.

Photo: Times Leader
This year his numbers stack up favorably to everyone else -- and I mean everyone -- who's passed through Scranton on their way to the Bronx.  And unlike the rest of them, he hasn't  lost a single game all year., which produces a weekly report entitled 'Knocking Down The Door'  identifying minor leaguers making strong cases for promotion to their major league clubs, spotlighted five prospects Tuesday that fit that bill. One of them was Smith.

Photo: New York Daily News
"With Chance Adams still waiting for a much-deserved and much-anticipated MLB call-up, Smith’s work in Triple-A has gone relatively unnoticed," MLBTR's Jason Martinez said. "The 25-year-old lefty has made 14 starts in 2017 and has allowed two earned runs or less twelve times, including back-to-back gems (13 IP, 0 ER, 7 H, 2 BB, 13 K) to lower his ERA to 2.84 with impressive peripherals across the board (6.5 H/9, 2.3 BB/9, 8.5 K/9)."

“He’s been great,” says Railriders pitching coach Tommy Phelps said. “Shoot, he’s been commanding all his pitches and using them in any count. He’s really been able to keep the hitters between speeds and he’s done a nice job.”

"He’s had games, man, where the punchouts just keep on coming,” said RailRiders catcher Eddy Rodriguez. “And some of the games are not even incredibly great pitches, but there’s some deceptiveness there that guys are really having a hard time picking up.”

"Rodriguez said Smith has the coveted ability to throw all of his pitches out of the same arm slot. Hitters might gear up for a fastball, then swing over the top of a slider. Sit slider, then chase a changeup. “The ideal scenario for a guy is all his pitches come out of the same slot, and the fingers have kind of the same movement,” Rodriguez said. “So, I think that’s where the deception is coming from."

“The changeup is getting there, definitely. It’s definitely getting there,” Smith said. “But slider’s been my go-to for the most part.”

Photo: Presswire
Drafted by the Yankees in the 14th round of  the 2013 draft, the 6' 2" Sam Houston State product was left unprotected after a stellar season in which he helped lead the Thunder on a championship run and the organization had collected so many new hot prospects it couldn't shield them all. So he got snatched in last December's Rule 5 draft by the Brewers who held the seventh overall pick and they immediately flipped him to the Cubs for cash considerations in a routine maneuver familiar to most Hot Stove watchers -- an odd little dance that clubs sometimes do to kick the tires on another club's merchandise.  In Smith's case, it was under the guise of filling out a bulging field of spring training competitors for a potential LOOGY role  with the defending World Champs.

Under Rule 5 guidelines, though, the Cubs couldn't keep him unless they were ready to guarantee him a spot on their  major league roster all season or offer the Yankees an acceptable trade piece in return.  The word out of Cubs camp at the time was they wanted to make an offer for him but the Yankees weren't biting.

So, as frequently happens in Rule 5 dealings, four days before Opening Day they returned him to the Yankees who then promoted him to the RailRiders rotationAnd he hasn't lost since, going 6-0 after 14 starts to date, sporting a nifty .200 BAA and a 0.97 WHIP.

With the Yankees rotation beaten up and requiring reinforcements, every big name major league pitcher on a losing team is being floated as a potential trade target.  I'm not buying it and I don't think Hal and Brian will either. Frankly, I don't believe either of them are ready to part with the prospects they've collected or their dream of getting under the luxury tax threshold.  I think they'll stick with the rebuilding blueprint, and any reinforcements that are forthcoming will be from within -- and they won't want to rush Chance into the fray prematurely (or start his service clock) until there's a bonafide rotation vacancy and not a just a temp job with all the potential controversy and bad press that can bring.

Smith isn't a heralded prospect. He's been under the radar in the system for several years, a late bloomer. He's had experience as both a starter and reliever. If he crashes and burns, nobody will care. If he flies high, he'll be  another system success story fans and media can love with a part to play in the blueprint. If he's somewhere in between, he may be able to help put out some fires in the burning bullpen. 

He may not be the Chance anyone wants the team to take. But he looks like a safer bet to pitch at Yankee Stadium than anyone else I'm hearing rumors about.

--Barry Millman
BYB Writer
Follow me on Twitter: @nyyankeefanfore

1 comment:

  1. Know he can do it..He's my little grandson...

    Chuck Smith


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