With many top pitching prospects advancing in the Reds system and top draft choices entering the lower levels, Josh Smith is under the radar with the 4th lowest ERA in the Cal League. Injury prompted an extended college career and though advancing, he's still behind schedule in the minor leagues. That should improve soon as his solid 2012 season makes a case for promotion to AA.
Bakersfield took a 2 run lead in the first inning and added two more in the sixth in a 4-2 at San Jose. Kurtis Muller led off the game with a single. He took a page out of Billy Hamilton’s book and scored on an errant throw when he stole third base. Ryan Wright scored behind him on a ground by Travis Mattair. Mattair had two hits including an RBI single when the Blaze played add-on in the sixth. Steve Selsky plated their final run with a single later that inning.
Josh Smith got the start and tossed six shutout innings. He allowed three hits and three walks while striking out five which earned his eighth win. Carlos Contreras entered in the ninth for his second appearance since a promotion from Dayton. He pitched around a walk and an error to record the final two outs and the save. The Blaze will return home to open a three-game set against High Desert Friday.
With higher-rated pitching prospects advancing in the pipeline above and high draft choices entering below, Smith has quietly put together a solid season for the Blaze. His win Thursday lifted his record to 8-7. He also has a 3.54 ERA which is the fourth lowest in the hitter-friendly California League this season. His 1.26 WHIP is sixth best.
Smith waited until the 21st round of the 2010 draft before the Reds selected him out of Lipscomb University in Nashville. During his final season with the Bison he had the fourth highest total of strikeouts in the NCAA. He went to work at Billings later that year and had a 2.14 ERA while working twelve games out of the Mustang bullpen. That got him a promotion to Dayton at the end of the season where he had an almost identical ernie in seven relief appearances. Last year he was moved to the Dragon rotation and responded with a 14-7 record and a sub-three ERA/1.09 WHIP.
Smith is listed at 6’2”/220# and throws right-handed. After he left his home in South Florida his college career lasted longer than expected, mainly because he missed his sophomore season to Tommy John surgery. Eventually he played a senior season with Lipscomb where he posted an unimpressive 4.66 ERA that made him available in the late round. Since returning to college was no longer an option he took a $1,000 signing bonus and pursued the opportunity.
Since he pitched collegiately for five years he was old for the rookie leagues when he arrived at Billings. That likely helped him make his splash at Dayton. Reds minor league field coordinator Freddie Benevides was quoted saying: “We got lucky, he can really pitch.” He recently turned 25 and is now one of the older pitchers on the Bakersfield roster.
Smith has showed good control in the lower levels. He has a low 90’s fastball with a polished curve that he can throw in any count. His K/BB ratio at Dayton last year was over five while struck out almost ten per nine innings. That hasn’t repeated at Bakersfield this season, but he still has a good 3.9 K/BB & 8.8 K’s/nine. After completing his first season he has managed to lower his BB/nine from over four to around two and a half.
Right now Smith is on the fringes of analysts’ top 25 lists of Cincinnati prospects and would likely be included in many of them if not for his age. Unfortunately many minor leaguers are quickly overlooked when their employers haven’t invested a high draft selection or a lot of money in them. Still, getting batters out is a plus, regardless of age. Smith has been doing that he should soon get a chance to see how well his curve ball works against AA hitters.
Other News from the Farm:
A first inning grand slam by Dioner Navarro gave Louisville a four run lead at Charlotte before the Bats allowed five in the bottom of the inning and eventually lost 8-6. Neftali Soto had two doubles and a walk. Navarro, Felix Perez, and Didi Gregorius added two hits each. Tim Gustafson was lifted in the fourth and was tagged for eight runs on nine hits for the loss. Bill Bray pitched a scoreless ninth in a rehab appearance.
Pensacola was rained out at Mobile. They will make it up with a doubleheader on Friday.
Dayton scored in six of the eight innings they batted while cruising to a 12-6 home win over Lake County. Sammy Diaz led off the Dragon’s first inning with a home run. He and Junior Arias both had three hits, a homer, and two RBI. Kyle Waldrop also had three hits while Jefry Siera, Yorman Rodriguez, and Nick O’Shea added two apiece. Rodriguez had four RBI. Radhames Quezada got his first start after missing a month with a sore shoulder. He allowed two runs on three hits in two innings. Wes Mugarian relieved him with a “quality non-start”. He allowed three runs on six hits in six innings for the win.
Billings found themselves in a three run hole before their first at-bat in a 7-0 loss to visiting Ogden. The Mustangs managed only four hits on the evening. Jonathan Moscot allowed three runs (two earned) in three innings for the loss.
The AZL Reds fell behind early and never threatened in a 9-1 loss at the AZL Cubs. Jonathan Reynoso had two of the Mustangs’ three hits to raise his average to .315. Nicholas Travieso got roughed up for five runs on six hits in three innings for the loss.
The DSL Reds took the lead on a two-run home run by Ronald Bueno in the ninth and held on for a 3-2 win at the DSL Twins. Bueno led the offense with three hits. Julio Torrealba got the start and allowed one run on three hits in four innings. Jesus Parra retired all six batters he faced and was the pitcher of record. He’s now 4-0 with a 0.83 ERA in thirteen appearances. Josue Castellano allowed a run in the ninth but still got credit for his tenth save.