Despite an injury that shelved him for the majority of last season, the Miami Marlins and fans got a glimpse of how good pitcher Caleb Smith can be.
Smith, who was cruising along as one of the bright spots in the first half of a dismal season for the parent club, suffered a lat injury that sent him to the disabled list and ruined what could have been a special season for the 27-year-old lefty.
The 5-6 record with a 4.19 ERA in 16 starts mirrored that of veteran pitcher Dan Straily, who took the ball in 23 starts and posted a 4.12 ERA for the season. It is possible the youngster could be part of a rotation that surprises many and has fans thinking about a postseason run sooner, rather than later.
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Because of his potential, and the fact he could be one of those “forgotten” players in the Marlins camp this Spring Training, he wa listed as one of the 30 players fans should be talking about by David Schoenfield of ESPN.com.
"“You have to use a little imagination here. The Marlins have several interesting young starters, including Smith, Pablo Lopez and Sandy Alcantara,” Schoenfield writes.“Smith was having a solid rookie campaign until he went down for the season in June with a lat injury. He fanned 88 in 77⅓ innings, held batters to a .220 average and is a lefty with a decent enough fastball (92.8 mph). He’s a little old to be viewed as a pitcher with big upside (he’s 27), but he could surprise.”"
If the Marlins are indeed building a special foundation of young pitchers, then Smith should be included in the conversation. Where he fits in the rotation, if it is this season, isn’t known yet. There are three veterans who head the rotation with Straily, Jose Urena and Wei-Yin Chen.
Chen is the wildcard as he cannot figure out how to win anywhere besides Marlins Park. Straily is the veteran who provides balance.
Urena is considered the ace of the group and will start on Opening Day for the second year in a row.
Alcantara is viewed as the future ace of the this quintet. A numbers game may actually hold Smith up from joining the rotation to start the season. He may start 2019 at Class-AAA New Orleans or be asked to work in long relief.
Caleb Smith was part of a trade involving the New York Yankees last season that few paid attention to that may pay off in a big way. No, I am not talking about “THAT TRADE” that began the dismantling of the franchise.
The Marlins have given Smith the green light to pitcher at full speed and he has responded well so far this offseason and Spring.
Should he continue to flash his 2018 form, it might give the coaching staff pause to think long and hard how it wants to assemble its rotation.
Smith could be one of those sleeper pitchers we talk about at the end of the season who was better than advertised. It’s not that the fans weren’t aware of his ability.
It’s more about who is in camp and how long it had been since they saw him pitch.
Caleb Smith should make fans and MLB remember how well he ptiches from the moment he steps back on the mound when the games mean something come April.