Pitcher Kyle Smith is among the most recent prospects to join the ever-changing Astros organization.
Smith, who is ranked 15th on Houston's Top 20 Prospects list, came to the Astros in exchange for Royals outfielder Justin Maxwell.
Smith, a 6-foot, 170-pound right-handed graduate of Santaluces Community High School in Lantana, Fla., provides Houston with a quality pitcher with advanced mechanics and a solid mound presence.
Smith led his high school team to the semifinals of its district tournament, compiling 116 strikeouts with only 14 walks. He had a remarkable ERA of 0.40 that season, helping him earn an offer to pitch for the University of Florida.
Selected by the Royals in the fourth round of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, Smith elected to bypass Florida to sign a professional contract.
Smith has now pitched parts of two seasons in the Minor Leagues. He has a composite ERA of 2.85 in 33 starts. He has thrown 176 2/3 innings.
Last year -- his first season -- Smith showed enough promise and pitching savvy to be promoted to Class A Kane County after only one start with the Royals' Rookie League team.
Smith leaves the Royals organization having thrown 104 1/3 innings this season at Class A Advanced Wilmington in the Carolina League. A member of the league's All-Star team, Smith had an ERA of 2.85 and a WHIP of 1.17 in 19 starts. Smith was equally effective against both left- and right-handed hitters.
When I watched him pitch, I saw a very easy, uncomplicated delivery. He is compact in his movements, getting the most of his average build.
While baseball has seen an emergence of bigger, stronger and more physical pitchers in recent years, Smith has enough velocity on both a two-seam and four-seam fastball to pitch with the big guys. He also has nasty, advanced secondary pitches, with a very effective curveball and a polished changeup.
Smith competes in every start by throwing strikes and repeating his very simple delivery. He uses his repertoire with efficiency and confidence, and he isn't averse to pitching backwards in a sequence, using a curveball or changeup to set up the moving fastball. And those fastballs do move. Smith changes the balance and eye level of the hitter with proficiency.
I think there is even more velocity than we are seeing now in his lively, active arm. Hitting 93 or 94 mph might be his current ceiling. At full maturity, Smith might bring even more heat.
Smith projects to be an effective, efficient middle-of-the-rotation starter with the ability to give his team a chance to win his starts.
The Astros are compiling a compelling roster of quality pitchers and players to compete with one another in the coming years. Smith should be in the midst of that competition.
Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners