Friday evening was Burch Smith's second start in the big leagues for the San Diego Padres, and even though it ended better than the first, the final stat line left a lot to be desired (5.1 IP, 6H, 5 ER, 1 BB, 8K). The 8:1 K:BB ratio is excellent and is consistent with the 5:1 K:BB he threw last year in the minors. Smith ran into trouble with the longball, surrending 3 HRs on the night - 2 to LaRoche and one to Zimmerman. Let's take a closer look at what Burch Smith brings to the table and why I feel he's worth an add in most formats.
Burch Smith's repertoire consists of a plus four-seam fastball, which sits 94-95 and a two-seam fastball that shows excellent, late arm-side run. Smith put up impressive numbers in the minors relying solely on the fastball, and even though he won't be able to lean on it as heavily in the majors, he has the velocity to over-power hitters and get by when he doesn't have his best stuff. Early on in the game, Smith was able to pound the bottom of the strike zone with his fastball and struck out the side in the second. As the game moved along, hitters were keying on the fastball and Smith didn't adjust as he continued to throw it often. For any chance at long-term success, he's going to have to learn to sequence his pitches better. Luckily, it's an adjustment that can be made with the help of the catcher and pitching coach and isn't solely on Smith to correct.
The changeup he threw Friday night is what left me optimistic on Smith's chances to stick in the rotation. If he had just the plus fastball he'd stand no chance, but Burch Smith showed great feel for the changeup as most of the pitches had excellent late fade. He induced some awkward swings with the pitch, telling me that hitters had a difficult time distinguishing between the fastball and the changeup. Similar to the fastball, the changeup will play up more if he learns to sequence his pitches better.
Of the 8 or so curveballs Smith threw on Friday night, he didn't get a single swing and miss. The pitch has some pretty nice movement to it, but hitters seemed to recognize it early and lay off the pitch. The lack of a true out pitch concerns me a bit, but Smith still seems to be putting up excellent strikeout totals by spotting the fastball appropriately.
Despite the two rough starts leaving Burch Smith with a 15.63 ERA, I still love his prospects moving forward. You will not find another pitcher on the waiver wire with the ability to pump up K's like Smith, and even if his flyball tendencies stick, he's in the perfect park to neutralize it. I want this guy in all formats 14-team league or larger. In 10 and 12-team leagues he's a solid streaming option when he has an easy opponent and he could turn into a guy you start every time out if Smith can improve his pitch sequencing and improve the curveball a bit. He's still only 23 years old and has plenty of opportunity for improvement on a roster not looking to compete in 2013. My only concern is that the Padres have a ton of options for the 5th rotation spot and if the stats don't start turning out in Smith's favor he could be out before they have a chance to normalize. Clayton Richard and Cory Luebke are on the DL and figure to be back at some point, Anthony Bass and Tyson Ross are capable of starting and Tim Stauffer was recently brought up into the pen after starting a few games in Triple A. I'm riding Burch out for a few more weeks in deeper leagues, but can't say I'm optimistic on his next start against St. Louis. Keep in mind that if he escapes the Cardinals with a W, he could really start to get some traction in fantasy circles as he'll have a solid K/BB ratio and a recent victory over a top offense - two common signals for top waiver pickups.