Caleb Smith is not an ace. I will put that out there now, and assuage any comment bombs. However looking at a short season, and for funsies, considering an MLB proposed 50-game season that looks closer and closer to reality as the days grow longer, we are now looking at finding value in possibly 2 months of games, bleh. With a long grinding season becoming a short sprint, I was curious about fast-starting pitchers while continuing research on the hitter-side. To my surprise, there was 1 name that appeared in the Top 20 K% for starting pitchers from April–May over the last 2 years outside of Grey’s Top 100. That name is indeed Caleb Smith.
Now I know what you are thinking, Smith is kinda sun-dried garbaggio as the season wears on so why are you bothering me with this pincushion? I get it. But hear me out! If the season continues to shrink and we see 2 months full of games, you can spin the wheel of mediocrity and possibly land on a short-term ace. He doesn’t have to be Mr. Right, just Mr. Right-now-while-we-have-games (for 2 months). And those kinds of aces come in spades, Mr. Kilmister. One of which could easily be our boy, Caleb.
In his short career so far, over 117.1 innings Caleb Smith has 3.30 ERA, 11.44 K/9, and .190 BAA during the first 2 months of the season. That looks a lot like the stat line of Shane Bieber in a short season. Is Caleb Smith the next Bieber? Hahaha, let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. I’m not going to be rifling through my pitchers to take Smith to the range. But I am saying he could be fairly reliable in a pinch for a quick double-tap. There is some risk to be mindful of with him: it fell apart for him in the second half in 2019 as it did in 2018, largely due to a rather high road HR/9 over 2, whereas his HR/9 at home was only 1.23. However, his season went off the rails after a hip injury that ultimately lowered his velocity by 2-3 mph after returning.
Caleb Smith has been drafted firmly after 200 (and rightly so given his late-season implosions). But for that cost, its very cheap for a pitcher that could go on a short-season tear and lead your pitching staff. The long test of a full season has not been kind to him so far, but he could stay healthy with fewer innings. All 3 of his pitches get an above-average swinging strike rate, so you know he’s not shooting blanks. And if the velocity is back, he might be one hell of a sidearm.