“Because of the coaches and the support that they gave me, I feel like I’ve gotten a lot better,” Smith said. “I grew as a player from a physical standpoint, I got stronger. And coach Harvey and coach Rozzelle really taught me more of the mental side of the game – how to set hitters up, how to read things. They showed me how to really get guys out when I needed to.”In 14 appearances during the 2018 college season he went 8-2 record with a 2.51 ERA in 79 innings pitched. He gave up 51 hits, 29 runs (22 earned), 32 walks and struck out a single-season program record 130. His career 81 strikeouts are a also a school record. Continuing on with firsts, Smith became the first player ever drafted directly from Catawba Valley Community College and also became the first CVCC player to be named Region X Pitcher of the Year. He been named a third-team All-American by the National Junior College Athletic Association becoming the first pitcher in Red Hawk baseball history to be chosen as an All-American.
“It’s a great feeling being mentioned with other good players from around the country,” Smith said. “Just like everything else, this is a reflection of all the hard work that we put in leading up to the season, and I wouldn’t be here without the help and support of my teammates.”Smith did sign with North Carolina State University with a full scholarship and although grateful for the confidence they had placed in him, the call of pro ball proved too strong for the 21-year-old lefty.
“It’s just a great feeling,” Smith said in a CVCC athletics department press release. “This is something I’ve dreamt about since I was a little kid. All of the hard work that I’ve put into this is finally showing and the results are bearing their fruits.”Smith grew up an Atlanta Braves fan, as we might expect, and has always had a goal of playing in front of the Braves fans, including his family, at SunTrust Field. Freddie Freeman is his favorite Brave, so he dreams of facing Freeman. He now has at least an opportunity to work his way through to MLB baseball and perhaps fulfill that dream. The scouting reports on Smith are sparse but indicate a good and improving fastball with the need to improve on a secondary pitch and also with control. This from 20-80 Baseball in September while Smith was playing in the fall Instructional League.
“Smith stands tall on the mound, his high three-quarters slot generating excellent plane on a 92-to-95 mph fastball. The pitch has life out of the hand, flashing effective run when he targets arm side. There’s slight cut when he drops under the pitch, though it might not be intentional. He hits spots to his arm side, as heavy tilt to clear his arm prevents the extension required to command across the plate. Both secondary pitches are inconsistent but flash upside: his 76-to-80 mph curveball is the better of the two, showing hammer action and 12-to-6 shape at best. A low-80s changeup gets quality separation and shows movement. His feel for the changeup is still raw–occasionally slowing his arm to guide the pitch–but there’s a chance it gets to average if he can sell it with more regularity.”At this point Julian Smith looks more like a reliever perhaps with the seventh inning as a landing spot but it would not be surprising to see him begin 2019 in a limited innings/pitch count starting role. I expect he will get to pitch with the Loons at some point in 2019. He may be held back at extended spring training for a while to continue to build up his arm strength and work on his repertoire.