by John Viril—
Ever since pitcher Will Smith was traded to the Kansas City organization, he’s been nothing but an afterthought. He arrived from the Los Angeles Angels along with P Sean O’Sullivan in a July 2010 trade for Royals 3B Alberto Callaspo. At the time, O’Sullivan had already appeared in 11 major league games and was considered the more advanced prospect while Smith was little more than a throw in.
Soon after the deal, Will Smith was demoted from the Angels AAA team to Advanced A Wilmington upon his arrival in the Royals Organization. Smith’s primary asset was that he was a big (6’5″) lefty with youth (21) on his side. Scouts viewed him as having no more than a bottom-of-the-rotation upside—if everything went right.
O’Sullivan earned trials in Kansas City in 2011 and 2012, quickly proving to be little more than a marginal major-league pitcher. The Royals sold O’Sullivan’s contract to the Toronto Blue Jays in June of 2012 after he posted a pedestrian 4.66 ERA in 27.0 IP in parts of two seasons. This winter, he signed with the Padres and made their rotation this spring.
Meanwhile, Smith climbed through the Kansas City organization after solid performances in A+ in 2010 (2.80 ERA in 54.2 IP), AA in 2011 (3.85 ERA in 161.1 IP) and AAA in 2012 (3.61 ERA in 89.2 IP). Will Smith’s performance, however, got lost among a highly touted group of left-handed starting pitching prospects that included Mike Montgomery, John Lamb, Danny Duffy and Chris Dwyer.
Though Smith generated little excitement on prospect lists, he arrived in Kansas City in mid 2012 after a rash of injuries and ineffectiveness plagued the Royals rotation. He performed pretty much as scouts projected, going 6-9 with a 5.32 ERA in 89.2 IP and a K/9 of 5.92 His ERA+ of 78 and his youth suggested he might be an acceptable no. 5 option in a major league rotation.
This spring, Will Smith made a strong run at the no. 5 rotation job. He was nothing short of outstanding in Arizona with a 1.64 ERA in 11 IP with 10 Ks and only 1 walk. Smith, however, had minor league options remaining and so was sent back to AAA. Back in Omaha, Smith continued to strike out batters like never before. In 22 IP, Smith has 31 K’s against only 6 walks. Those numbers give him an outstanding 12.68 K/9 and a ridiculous 5.17 K/BB ratio. For a guy whose primary knock has been his limited ability to miss bats, it appears to be a career transformation.
Smith has most certainly caught the attention of the decision-makers in Kansas City. GM Dayton Moore called Smith up as insurance for Sunday’s double-header against Boston, only to return him to Omaha on Monday. Despite the quick return, Smith is certain to get another call to the Big Show if he continues to miss bats at anything close to his current rate.
Maybe it’s time for Will Smith to be something more than an afterthought.