DUNEDIN,FL–Matt Smoral is not an average baseball player in height, or talent.
The Toronto Blue Jays’ prospect stands tall in frame at 6-foot-8. His pitching motion is unique, at a mid-to-low three quarters release, and on top of it all he is a left-handed pitcher.
Since his days at Solon High School, the Ohio native has often drawn the comparison to future hall-of-famer Randy Johnson, something Smoral said is an accurate assessment.
“I think we are similar in some ways and different in other ways,” he said, in the sun at the Bobby Mattick Training Center. “I used to throw from a little bit of a lower arm slot but they have moved it up a little bit.”
As for being tall and a lefty, Smoral is more interested in duplicating Johnson’s cold-blooded mound presence.
Smoral wears No. 83 because the team gave it to him, but would one day like to don his hero’s 51.
“Randy Johnson is my idol,” said the team’s seventh-ranked prospect. “I grew up watching him and it’s more then just what he did on the mound. It was his presence and demeanor that really stuck with me.”
Like Johnson, Smoral has a very uncommon pitching release. His mid-to-low three quarters release throws off batters both left handed and right handed, something he wants to use to his advantage.
“I just think that because it’s coming from a taller guy, and an arm slot you don’t see very often, especially on lefties, I feel that I have an advantage,” he said
“I know when I used to hit, and I faced a lefty like that it was uncomfortable because the ball is coming from behind you, but I want to keep working on it and perfect my craft.”
The 18 year old, was drafted in the first round, 50th overall in last year’s amateur draft and has progressed faster then expected. 16 months ago scouts were looking at Smoral (who at the time was only 6’4) as a guy who could just reach 90mph on his fastball.
As time passed, and Smoral gained some weight and strength, so too did his velocity on his fastball. He recently had been clocked at 93-95mph on his pitch and credits the rise in velocity to the coaches around him.
“I think the key has been developing my mechanics by working with the coaches’ day in and day out.”
Intimidating his opponents
When you look at Matt Smoral you see a giant, when you stand next to him, you truly see someone who was blessed with great height. When he’s on the mound.
A quick look on You Tube here shows he’s an intimidating force.
“I think the biggest advantage [about being tall] is getting downhill and getting a good tilt on the ball. And with being a bigger guy, I want to have that intimidating presence on the mound.”
With lefty specialists becoming a staple on MLB teams such as Oliver Perez, Darren Oliver, Mark Rzepcynski and Aaron Loup. Smoral is willing to do whatever it takes to make it to the big leagues.
“I am here to do whatever the Toronto Blue Jays organization wants me to do for them,” he said.
“I want to get to the big leagues whether it’s a starter or as a specialist. I am ready to fill that role but ultimately, I see myself as a starter.”
Setting goals is important for him.
“I set my expectations really high and I am ready to have a good year. I don’t know where I will end up but wherever I end up I am going to go out there and pitch. “