Rays Prospects

Takeaways From Tampa Bay Rays’ Winter Ball Results Part 2

By Robbie Knopf
3 of 7

May 17, 2013; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Padres starting pitcher Burch Smith (26) throws during the first inning against the Washington Nationals at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Burch Smith: His road back from injury will be a process

After Smith missed nearly all of 2014 with a forearm strain, it would have been nice if he had dominated hitters in the Arizona Fall League. Instead, he managed just a 5.52 ERA and a 9-5 strikeout to walk ratio in 9 appearances and 14.2 innings pitched.

Of course, Smith’s results didn’t matter as much as the fact that he was on the mound and healthy. Better that he shake the rust off in the AFL then start the 2015 season having not thrown a competitive pitch since April 12, 2014.

Smith has been mentioned as a candidate for the Rays’ Opening Day roster and that is probably unrealistic. He needs close to a full year at Triple-A for two main reasons: building up innings and improving his breaking ball. Smith pulled off the incredible feat of going from 14th round pick to big leaguer in under two years, but now it is time to slow things down.

To be clear, though, the Rays are fully expecting a talented pitcher for 2016. Burch Smith is a pitcher armed with a fastball touching the mid-90’s and a great changeup, and the Rays acquired him when his value could not have been any lower. All they need to do is be patient and he will be fine. Given the Rays’ pitching depth, they have no problem waiting.