This article is part of the Know Your Orioles 40-man series, which features an article about each of the 38 players currently on the Orioles roster. There will be one every weekday until we run out of players.
Note: On 4/15/22, the Orioles announced that Kevin Smith had cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A Norfolk. He is no longer on the 40-man roster.
When the Orioles traded Miguel Castro during the 2020 season, they got two players in return. One was to be named later, and ultimately picked to be Victor Gonzalez.
The other was a pitcher named Kevin Smith, who now as a 24-year-old is on the 40-man roster, and is hoping to stick with the Orioles at the start of the season.
If all that comes to mind when you think of Kevin Smith are movies set in New Jersey, well, don’t feel bad. You’re surely not alone. Not much is known of Kevin Smith the pitcher, who has yet to pitch in the big leagues and who so far has compiled 82.1 innings in the Orioles system.
Taken in the seventh round out of the University of Georgia in 2018, Smith spent the 2018 and ’19 seasons on the Mets’ farm, going 8-7 with a 3.23 ERA over 117 combined innings at the High-A and Double-A levels in 2019. After the trade brought him to Baltimore, Smith played last season in the Orioles’ system and pitched to a 1.04 ERA in Double-A Bowie before stumbling to a 6.55 mark in 56.1 innings in Triple-A Norfolk.
Despite the less-than-sterling Norfolk numbers, Smith has some pretty high stock in the Orioles’ organization. According to MLB Pipeline he’s the team’s 14th-ranked prospect, and there are some things to like about the lefty. He’s got good size at 6-5 and 200 pounds, and while he doesn’t have an overpowering arsenal, he seems to have a good feel for pitching and knowing how to approach hitters.
His scouting report reads that he “succeeds consistently because of his ability to throw strikes and create natural deception,” and he has a slider that poses well as a swing-and-miss strikeout pitch, particularly against left-handed hitters (lefties slugged out .352 against him last season).
The downside to him so far is that the repertoire is limited. Despite his power pitcher build, he doesn’t have a power pitcher’s set of pitches, with a fastball that sits in the low-90s. His control and command are good, but he doesn’t have too much of a strikeout element to his game at this point in his development, though he did manage to strike out 105 batters in his 82.1 innings last season.
He is being groomed as a starter, given that 20 of his 22 appearances last season were starts, and the Orioles will certainly be looking for up-and-comers to fill out the rotation once behind ace prospects Grayson Rodriguez and D.L. Hall. With starters like Dean Kremer and Keegan Akin floundering in their first cracks at the staff, there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of Smith getting his chance provided he supplies the evidence on the mound that he’s up for it.
End of year prediction:
It’s unclear whether Smith will get a shot right away or whether he’ll have to return to the minors again before getting the call to come up to Baltimore. A successful season for Smith would be either a season of improvement at the Triple-A level, proving that the work he put in to further hone his controls and develop his pitches has worked, or a major league performance that shows potential, even if there are some bumps along the way.
At the moment, it would seem sensible for Smith to begin the season at Triple-A, given his lack of extended exposure to the upper levels of the minor leagues and his inability so far to excel there. Asking a prospect to make a jump from mediocre returns at Norfolk to pitching well in Baltimore is pretty demanding, and Smith should get the early part of the season to show he can handle higher competition. If that happens, with the Orioles looking for all the pitching they can get, expect Smith to get some innings the way the way Michael Baumann eventually got them last season.
Tomorrow: Terrin Vavra