Meet Former Red Hawk Julian Smith

With the 2018 World Series now a fading memory in our minds it will soon be time to pay more attention to the upcoming June Amateur Draft. Maybe I misspoke, and the 2018 World Series is only fading in my mind. The speculation on what the Dodgers will do with trades and/or free agent signing is running rampant. Some of those questions will perhaps be answered soon with the upcoming winter meetings scheduled for Las Vegas from December 9 through December 13. In the meantime, we could look ahead to the June draft that is only six months away or look back a bit at the 2018 First-Year Player Draft that is only six months past. In scanning through the Dodgers selections last June, I came across a player for whom I had book marked some information expecting him to at least pitch with the AZL Dodgers in 2018. He didn’t. Left-hander Julian Smith was selected by the Dodgers in the 15th round in 2018 out of Catawa Valley Community College (CVCC) in Hickory, North Carolina. The native of Concord, North Carolina attended Cox Mill High School in his home town where he compiled a three-year record of 10-4 with an ERA of 1.88 along with 169 strikeouts and 50 walks in 123 innings pitched. He became the first member of the Cox Mill High School Chargers to ever be drafted by a MLB team. The 6’4”/190-pound lefty headed off to CVCC and had a great start to his 2017 season in which he struck out 51 batters in seven starts but then adversity struck. In a game against Brunswick Community College he was forced to leave after two innings with discomfort in his elbow. Doctors told him the three words pitchers most dread to hear: Tommy John surgery. Unfortunately, he was to miss the rest of the 2017 season but recovered quickly to resume his community college career in 2018. Although he missed being on the field he did take what he could from the time missed while recuperating from the surgery. What he gained might have been more significant that what he lost. First the agony for a young man not able to be on the field with his teammates.      “It was a stressful process at first, because it’s a 12-month recovery,” Smith said. “It was grueling.  It’s never good having to watch baseball games. That was the hardest part for me: going out there and seeing my guys compete, knowing that I should be right there next to them.        “The toughest part was the mental side, knowing that I had to wait for my time, knowing that I had to wait to get better, knowing that I had to trust the recovery process.” Secondly, what was gained with the help of his family and his coaches. He returned to the game a more prepared pitcher and a more mature young man. 

     “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. 

This article has 37 Comments

  1. The Athletic has a great piece on the possible banning of the shift. Some brief excerpts:

    OK, here’s why: A number of people inside the game, including some members of the competition committee, have concluded that teams and hitters have reacted to The Shift by saying, “Let’s hit the ball over those shifts.” … They’ve also concluded that those uppercut swings are fueling the tsunami of strikeouts….Yet the cool factor of the opposite-field single hasn’t spread across the land – and shows no signs of doing so.
    What a new rule might look like
    It’s difficult to spell out the specifics of a rule that has never existed and has barely been talked about… But what’s most likely is a rule that simply reinforces one basic principle: Each team must have two infielders on the left side of second base and two on the right side.

    1. I would go a step further. Neither the 1B or 2B or SS and 3B can move to the opposite side of 2B.

      That was an excellent article. The Athletic is hiring the best writers in the business. In Indy, they hired 3 of the best writers – I wonder what this means for newspapers? This stuff killed The Sporting News.

      1. So we’re changing rules because it is hard to do something such as going with the pitch. Hate the ideas. Let’s ban zone defenses in basketball.
        Mark, your saying a SS can’t crossover the base on a groundball or pop fly to make a play. Kind of kills a players range then.

      2. Seriously?

        How will this be any different if the SS lines up behind 2B and moves a few steps when the pitcher goes into his motion?

        A more interesting solution that I just read involves enlarging the strike-zone so the outside corner become even further from the batter and there’s more going the other way…

    2. I don’t think there should be a new rule. Batters will adjust over time. This is the nature of baseball.

      Rich Hill on WS Game 4 when he was pulled to the demise of Dodgers fans…

      Best Quote…
      “I think that when you get into the World Series and the postseason you can look at numbers but a lot of that stuff has to go out the window and you have to go with the guys who are obviously being efficient and just going for it. I think that’s the biggest thing.”

      Let me translate… WTF Roberts? I would have at least three more post-season wins if you didn’t pull me early every time I pitch.

      I really hope that Roberts is learning his lessons. A major league manager has a lot of different responsibilities and Roberts does a lot of things well as a manager. The players like him, they buy into what he’s trying to accomplish, no crazy clubhouse stuff, no crying about playing time. His big problem is game management and he really needs to improve in that area. Maybe if he had time to come up as a minor league manager, he would have the necessary experience to be better in-game. He’s learning on the job. At least I’m hopeful that he’s learning.

    DC asked that I include the above article from Baseball America on his most current in depth discussion of LAD minor league prospects; Julian Smith.
    Julian falls in line with the current paradigm of Dodgers seeking starting pitchers in the draft with the hopes of converting them to quality relievers; some late inning high leverage and some good multi inning middle relief. While most of us do not believe that the bullpen deficiencies were properly addressed at the trade deadline, I do believe they are managing the dearth of quality relievers as they did with Catchers. The current minor league system is chock full of prospective MLB quality (or perceived quality) relievers. Many of the more obscure prospects are in the lower levels, but soon there will be a discussion as to how elite the system is with relievers as catchers are discussed today. The prospect list will not show the high rankings because relief pitchers are not valued by the journalist raters. Yes Mark I said. Relievers are not valued by many.

  3. PeterJ, I’ve been busy the last week so haven’t had time to post much, but I saw your comment on the Rolling Stones. I actually did get tic for the Rose Bowl show. I”m not the biggest fan, but I really want to experience a concert and environment like that!

    I suggest that you get tic, no matter where, just for the experience of it all!

  4. DC

    Thanks for your contributions too.

    You can tell with every piece you write, that you have a passion for our guys in our farm system.

  5. DC thank you for your continued insight on various Dodger prospects. I really enjoy “meeting” these players and getting to know them better. Because of your post, Mr. Smith is another player that I was unfamiliar with who has moved up on my list of prospects for whom I’m going to root.

  6. Interesting article on the Rich Hill/Doc Roberts Game 4 controversy. This article was made after a podcast with Rich. He had some very interesting comments with respect to Game 4, to the early removal of starters, to the use of analytics, the use of starters as relievers. If you can get past the too talkative interviewer, you will find that Rich was very open and very honest. I would not expect anything less from him. He did conclude that he wants to pitch as long as he can, but he wants to go out on his terms. His 7-year-old son wants him to keep going.
    It is a 34 minute podcast, but it is quite enlightening and well worth the listen.

    1. We all like Doc and think he’s a good leader, but the Red Sox managed those games to win and with urgency. The Dodgers managed like it was just another game. Pulling Baez game 1 for Wood, pulling Hill, not letting Buehler go 1 more inning. It was the freeking World Series. Now the teams in NL East are getting better. Goldy may go St. Louis, the Brewers will be better too. It was a terribly managed series by Doc and FAZ.

      1. The Cardinals are not going to miss any of Weaver, Kelly, or Young. Weaver may not have made the Cardinals rotation. Kelly has never fulfilled his promise as a top rated catcher in all of MLB, and Andrew Knizer may be a better catcher prospect. Andy Young is an organizational depth 2B.
        Matt Carpenter goes back to 3B. They will need a backup catcher as it is harder for Yadi Molina to play as many innings as he does. But they have the pitching and a good offense made better with Goldy. They can move Martinez to the AL for an OF.
        Weaver makes the AZ rotation, and Kelly becomes the starting C. DBacks will be lucky to be a .500 team.

        1. Three short years ago Dodger fans were saying the D-Bags were geniuses and Friedman was an idiot!

          How do they like him now?

          1. Some were, but most were saying that contract would bite them in the ass before it was over. Dbags have got in trouble in the past deferring money. I was more pissed at Greinke for being a mercenary than I was Freidman for not going 6 years, but that’s just me being a fan. Most of us knew Greinke would never finish all 6 years there and if he did it would cost them their ability to re-sign Goldschmidt. Corbin, Pollak, and Goldy gone. Funny thing is they were in first place more than any other team in the division this year.

        2. Very true, Of course Kelly hasn’t really gotten a chance and probably wouldn’t have for another two years. I’m already sick of hearing how Goldy fit the “Cardinal Way”. The Cardinal Way is do what I say not as I do if you ask me.

          1. I was making a very quick assessment believing the Cards got the big bat that makes them contenders in 2019. They need a 2nd catcher (only 1 on 40 man), and could use another OF and a bullpen upgrade, but they have the pieces to make that happen. The three they gave up are not bad players and the DBacks did not get fleeced.
            Luke Weaver was a 2014 1st round pick out of Florida State, and was a very highly thought of prospect. He is just not in the class of Jack Flaherty, Carlos Martinez, or Miles Mikolas. He is probably a good back of the rotation starter with a ceiling of a #3.
            Carson Kelly, Francisco Mejia, and Chance Sisco were the top three MLB catcher prospects for a while. As you rightfully stated, Kelly never got a chance to start in St. Louis but will get every opportunity to start in Arizona. He was a 2nd round draft pick out of HS in 2011, and has just not hit enough yet. He is going to get a great opportunity to start behind the dish for Arizona. That is a better return than a draft pick would give them, and they were not going to contend with or without Goldy. And they still get a compensatory draft pick in 2019.
            For all of those that thought the Dodgers would get Kluber for Puig, see what Arizona got for Goldy. The good thing for Arizona is that Weaver (25) is team controlled for 5 years and Kelly (24) is team controlled for 6 years. They are both two years away from arbitration.

        3. Great, at least the D-Bags will suck with that return for a while. Goldy would have looked great in Blue, big right handed bat. Big miss for the Dodgers, not that the Dodgers had a chance in hell getting him from the D-Bags anyways. But that guy is a boss!

          1. The Dbags would have sucked with him this year or at best been mediocre after losing Corbin and Pollak. Unfortunately, the Cardinals are no in the thick of it all.

  7. Michael Duarte has reported that the Dodgers have checked in on Jose Abreu. That would put an end to the projected Muncy/Freese platoon. I think the Dodgers are in on a lot of players, but Freidman has been known as a window shopper.

    Realmuto-Mets, Dodgers, Astros
    Harper-Dodgers, Yankees, Phillies. I’m not totally ruling out Nats yet, but doubtful.
    Kluber and Bauer-Dodgers, Mets

  8. The Cardinals have a knack for getting some of baseballs best hitters,making them their own and making a post-season run with them. Beltran, Holliday, Big Mac and now Goldschmidt. Would be nice to see the Dodgers do that. Do the Cards have all the right handed hitters?

          1. I do not mean to speak for 59inarow, but none of Beltran, Holliday, McGwire were rentals and all were AS for the Cardinals. McGwire was a trade deadline acquisition while the others were Winter acquisitions. Beltran was a Cardinal for the least number of years (2) of the three. The story still needs to unfold to see if Goldy is going to be a rental or if he is going to sign an extension.
            But yes, Machado was acquired for the post-season run. But he was only a short-timer with LAD. I think that is what he was referring to.

          2. I get that, but I don’t get the underlying message.
            Who cares if it’s a short-term fix or medium term (is that what Goldschmidt would be?).

  9. Gee, wonder how Greinke is feeling right about now? Better hug that big ass contract because your post season future is not lookin good for the rest of your career. Seems like the same people who trashed FAZ for not going the extra 30 million and another year for Zac were the same ones that trashed FAZ yet again for not paying closer money for Morrow. Hmm, how is that working out?

    1. Morrow was a tough call. Long injury history. Basically Forsythe got his money though. Logan had a $9 million club option. FAZ misread last year’s market and picked it up right away. That was pretty close to what he got from the Cubs.

      1. I mean he’s going to be highly sought after if/when he hits the market. So he’s not compelled to negotiate.
        The Dodgers know there aren’t many situations that are better than being the GM of the Dodgers. So they are in no hurry.

  10. Royals Sign Chris Owings so AZ is without another player. If they were lucky, they could trade Greinke for Kemp and then have lot of mondy to re-sign Goldy to a long term contract next year.

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