Selected by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the fifth round of the 2016 MLB Draft out of San Jacinto Junior College in Texas, left-handed pitcher Devin Smeltzer reached High-A Rancho Cucamonga this year, his first full summer in professional baseball. Across 26 starts (25 games) with Low-A Great Lakes and High-A Rancho in 2017, Smeltzer threw 142.1 innings and finished 7-7 with a 4.17 ERA. In that span, he allowed 147 hits (.261 opponents’ batting average) and 30 walks while striking out 159 hitters. An intense lefty with a very deep arsenal and the mindset to challenge hitters, Smeltzer is a good starting pitcher who, by virtue of being in the Dodgers’ deep organization, simply remains somewhat off the radar because there are so many talented pitching prospects around him.
Having just turned 22 years old (DOB: September 7, 1995), the lefty figures to start 2017 with Double-A Tulsa, and his strike-throwing ways and ability to challenge hitters with multiple pitches should continue to serve him well as he reaches the upper minors. Listed at 6’3″, 195 lbs., Devin Smeltzer is wiry with some room to add good weight to his frame, especially in his lower half, and that combined with modest mechanical refinements could see the already consistent pitcher further improve his stamina and likelihood to remain in the rotation. We saw the Los Angeles Dodgers prospect several times this summer; below is our full scouting report, tool grades, several videos, and some notes on Smeltzer’s future projection.
Devin Smeltzer, Los Angeles Dodgers — 2017 Scouting Report
Dates observed in 2017: July 30; August 25; September 2; September 7
Devin Smeltzer Scouting Report — 2017 Game Video
Devin Smeltzer Scouting Report — Notes & Analysis
Devin Smeltzer is a fiery, competitive guy with some stereotypical left-handed quirks; he’ll overachieve on raw talent and his deep arsenal, but the Los Angeles Dodgers have so many top-flight pitching prospects littered throughout their system right now that he’s lost in the shuffle, at least so far as outside evaluators are concerned. That’s a shame; he can pitch and he’s got a serious competitive fire when he takes the ball, making him a fun guy to evaluate and, I would imagine, a fun guy for teammates to play behind every fifth day. His changeup is advanced, and the combo of that with his two-seamer and cutter make Smeltzer the kind of guy who can carve up a lineup in a sneaky way: no mid-90s fastball, no hammer curveball, but you look up after six or seven innings and he’s whiffed nine guys with everyone else suffering weak contact.
He put together a legitimately impressive 2017; had he spent the entire year in either the Midwest League or the California League (the two levels he split), his 159 strikeouts would’ve led the Low-A circuit or been good enough for second-best out west. I’m not sure he’ll continue being such a prolific strikeout artist, though. In fact, he may be throwing too many strikes; absent a power wipeout pitch, even with the high strikeout rate, he’s in the zone a lot and that should allow hitters in the upper minors to find the barrel more often than opponents have so far. Nevertheless, further development of his arsenal—especially that changeup and cutter—will do well for the Los Angeles Dodgers prospect as he heads into 2018, and he’ll continue missing enough bats to succeed, even if he falls short of this season’s stellar 10.1 K/9 rate.
Devin Smeltzer Scouting Report — Future Projection
With the command profile and production Devin Smeltzer just put up in his first full season of pro ball, there’s little question he should continue to start games for the foreseeable future. He’s another good pitching prospect in a Los Angeles Dodgers system littered with them right now, but look past prospect lists and you’ll find a consistent, competitive lefty who should give himself a shot to start in the Majors in a couple years. At his ceiling, I think Smeltzer has a legitimate chance to fill out a back-end rotation role in the big leagues; short of that he’s got a deep enough arsenal and ability to sequence that he could fill a swingman/spot starter role.
Of course, his left-handedness and cross-body deception with big strikeout totals could point Smeltzer towards a lefty specialist role, too. His relatively violent, max effort delivery and deep arsenal could play up in short stints (and he’d likely pick two or three of his five pitches and perfect those), but I think 2018 is premature to move him to the bullpen. To me, Smeltzer is one of those guys with a unique enough track record and profile that he should stay in the rotation until he fails. If he succeeds his way all the way up to Los Angeles, then the Dodgers have themselves yet another good pitching prospect.
Overall Future Potential (Future Value): Back-end rotation ceiling with matchup potential for swingman/relief work (47.5/50)
MLB ETA: 2019