January 11, 2007

Top 10 Prospects: 9. Joe Smith

I will be posting on the Mets top 10 prospects through the course of the the next couple of days, so look for them. Over at Baseball America, they take a look at the Mets top 10 prospects:

9.Joe Smith, rhp Born: March 22, 1984; B-T: R-R; Ht: 6-2; Wt: 205
Drafted: Wright State, 2006 (3rd round); Signed by: Erwin Bryant

Smith had shoulder surgery as a senior in high school and couldn't make the Wright State roster as a freshman. After making the team as a walk-on in 2004, he dropped his arm angle from high three-quarters to sidearm a year later and his stuff improved appreciably. His 0.98 ERA would have led NCAA Division I last spring, but he fell five innings short of qualifying. A third-round pick, he signed for $410,000 and reached Double-A in August.

Strengths: Smith is unique because he throws much harder than typical sidearmers, and his 89-91 mph fastball has sinking, fading action. It tops out at 94. He stays on top of an 81-83 mph, two-plane slider that destroys righthanders. They hit just .104 against him in pro ball.

Weaknesses: The key to Smith reaching his ceiling is his changeup. He never needed it in college, but he does in pro ball to keep advanced lefthanders honest. They went 10-for-20 (.500) against him in his brief Double-A stint.

The Future: If he can make his changeup an average pitch, Smith should be an excellent setup man. Without it, he'd be just a righthanded specialist. Chad Bradford filled that role for the Mets in 2006, and his departure could allow Smith to make the team at some point in his first full season. He'll probably open in Triple-A.

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