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Player Background

Drew Smyly spent two seasons at the University of Arkansas before being drafted by the Detroit Tigers in the second round of the 2010 draft. Baseball America ranked Smyly as the Tigers no. 8 prospect after the 2010 season, and that ranking jumped to no. 3 following 2011. Prior to the 2014 season, Jason Parks of Baseball Prospectus ranked Smyly as the fourth-best player in the Tigers system under the age of 25.

Smyly made his major-league debut in 2012. He appeared in 23 games for the Tigers, and made 18 starts. He finished the year as a slightly above average starter (107 ERA+). However, Smyly was moved to the bullpen in 2013, and he had one of his most productive season to date. Over 76 innings of work he registered a 2.37 ERA with a 1.039 WHIP.

In 2014, Smyly was reintroduced to the rotation. He pitched okay for Detroit, and was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays in July. Smyly was excellent in seven starts for the Rays that season (1.70 ERA), but he was limited to only twelve starts in 2015 due to a tear in his left labrum.

What Went Right in 2016?

The biggest positive for Smyly last season was the fact that he stayed healthy following his shoulder injury. He ended up making 30 starts for Tampa. What else went right last year? Well, he had a really good April. In his first five starts of the season, Smyly held down a 2.60 ERA with a strikeout rate above 30 percent.

Smyly’s fastball was an effective weapon a year ago. By pitch value, it ranked as the 14th best fastball among qualified starters. That’s about all the good news.

What Went Wrong in 2016?

Pretty much everything else went wrong for Smyly last year. He finished with the highest ERA of his career (4.88). His DRA (4.14) and FIP (4.88) didn’t offer much consolation in that regard. Home runs have been a struggle for Smyly throughout his career, and it got even worse in 2016. He allowed the sixth most homers in baseball last season (32). Smyly’s HR/9 of 1.98 was the fourth-highest total among qualified starters.

A major part of the reason for Smyly’s struggle in this regard has been his fly ball rate. Last season, he finished with the second highest fly-ball rate among qualified starters (49.3 percent). In fact, since Smyly’s debut in 2012 he’s registered the eighth highest fly ball rate in baseball (45.3 percent). In other bad news, his K/9 also tumbled from 10.40 to 8.57.

What to Expect in 2017

In Matt CollinsEarly ADP Analysis” he noted that on average Smyly is being taken in the 15th round of drafts (average pick 222.29). That puts him in a group with starters like Michael Pineda, Robbie Ray, and Anthony DeSclafani. Smyly checked in as a three-star player in Mike Gianella’s “Fantasy Tiered Rankings.”

2017 PECOTA Projection:

IP

ERA

WHIP

SO

W

L

SV

WARP

159 2/3

4.07

1.25

161

11

9

0

1.3

Those numbers would be pretty close to Smyly’s production form last season. A small dip in ERA is likely given that he finished the season with a 67.7 percent LOB%. This was significantly lower than his career average.

Smyly is also changing ballparks in 2017. He’ll be moving from Tropicana Field to Safeco. Over the past three seasons Safeco has been a little more likely to allow home runs to right-handed hitters, but it’s been a touch worse for lefties. Last season, Safeco allowed the sixth-most home runs per game in baseball as opposed to Tropicana Field which finished 22nd. Park factors can be over rated, but at the very least the move to Seattle won’t naturally decrease his tendency to give up home runs.

On the bright side, Smyly is a pretty safe bet to receive regular starts at the back end of the Mariners rotation.

The Great Beyond

Smyly will turn 28 this summer. His career stats suggest that he’s a better pitcher than he showed last year. It’s possible he could have several more seasons as an above-average starting pitcher. Again, a major factor in his success will be his ability to limit the long ball. Smyly’s fastball was effective last season, but all his other pitches were below league average by pitch value. If he can’t find secondary pitches to rely on, it’s going to be difficult for him to return to his pre-2016 production.

As recently as 2015, Smyly showed the ability to be a successful pitcher. In 2017, he’s worth a roll of the dice around his average draft slot. If he has another sub-par season this year (and if the strikeouts don’t bounce back), his value will plummet further.

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bhacking
3/01
I really like the idea of pulling data in from other recent sources, it's nice to have a kind of one stop shop for this information on a player. When i'm researching someone I often end up going through many pages where a guy was simply mentioned before I get to what I am looking for.
LanceBroz
3/01
Great stuff Erik! Seems like Pineda and Ray both have a lot more hype / upside behind them. A flyball pitcher of Smyly's caliber won't benefit too much from one of the most improved defenses in baseball behind him too from my perspective, but then again, he had a good d in TB as well. That SEA staff has a lot of question marks, but also a lot of hope.
yancyeaton
3/01
Excellent stuff on Smyly. As a Rays fan I was so high on him and it blew up in my face. Hopefully he rebounds.
critacco
3/01
Good material here. But I am a little skeptical about the HR data for Safeco. Last season was the second for Nelson Cruz in an M's uniform, and Robinson Cano also bounced back in the HR department. The M's total HRs the last three years: 136, 198, 223. I don't think Safeco dimensions have changed so guessing the ballpark factor is skewed by the players who hit there 81 times a year. I don't have a great solution -- opponents HRs can be skewed by the quality of the home team's pitching -- but my guess is Safeco is still a pitchers' park.
Ericocc
3/02
Yeah, the three year data made the parks a lot of closer. I don't put too much stock in the one year data from last season.