The Milwaukee Brewers’ trade of outfielder Norichika Aoki doesn’t come as a huge surprise to most fans, but it was what they would receive for him that kept most people guessing.
Smith, 24, has found life as primarily a reliever in the majors, but could also be fighting for the Brewers’ starting rotation. With the Royals, they pegged him as a starter in 2012, which was his first time up in the major leagues. During that season, Smith was hit hard in 16 starts with an ERA of 5.32 in 89.2 innings, but did sport a FIP of 4.66. In 2013, the Royals used him in only 33.1 innings as a reliever and he was more successful, posting an ERA of 3.24 and a FIP of 3.50.
His arsenal features a fastball (two-seam and four-seam), change-up, curveball and a slider. None of his pitches stand out and in fact his fastball that topped out at 92 mph this season may raise some eyebrows heading into Spring Training. That said, he’s only 24 and has a lot of time to work on his stuff. Despite the questionable fastball numbers, he did manage a K/9 of 11.61 in 2013 and only had a BB/9 of 1.89, so that’s a positive sign going forward.
In Milwaukee, Smith can either go one of two ways and neither one is incredibly bad for him. For one, Smith could very well be that fifth starter the Brewers are still trying to find. He has more starts than Tyler Thornburg and Jimmy Nelson (who are both vying for spots) so that could earn him the job. If the starting rotation doesn’t work out, he would easily fit into the bullpen and would benefit the relievers tremendously as Tom Gorzelanny would not be alone as the only left-hander. Personally, I think they should stick him in the rotation as they need a left-handed arm.
Some of the reading I was doing on Smith had him projected as a possible eighth inning guy, which in Milwaukee has been a role taken by Brandon Kintzler. Of course, the Brewers could try Kintzler out as the closer and maybe trade Jim Henderson, but that’s all hypothetical and dependent on what Smith can actually do next season. All in all, trading Aoki for Smith might not be the best transaction the Brewers have pulled off, but it’s definitely not the worst.
What do you think about Smith? Will he be in the rotation, bullpen or maybe not even on the 25-man roster next season? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.