Santaluces High pitcher Kyle Smith has the stuff to entice big-league scouts
Monday, April 11, 2011
by Matt Porter
Photo by Damon Higgins / The Palm Beach Post
Kyle Smith may not have the size pro scouts favor, but the Santaluces pitcher has strong command of his pitches, as shown by his impressive stats.
At 6 feet, 180 pounds, Santaluces High right-hander Kyle Smith lacks the size pro scouts covet. But he has nearly everything else they want: command of major-league-ready stuff, a durable arm and an effortless delivery.
He is the most complete, consistent player in an area filled with pro prospects. His pitching is likely to determine Santaluces' success in the upcoming District 9-6A playoffs.
"If he's done, we're done," coach Nick Franco said.
Smith, who can help Santaluces (14-8) sew up the district's No. 2 seed Thursday with a win over Boca Raton, is 6-1. He leads the area in ERA (0.13) and strikeouts (90) in 52 1/3 innings. He also is among the area leaders in batting average (.415), home runs (4) and RBI (19).
He struck out 120 in 64 innings last season, going 6-2 with a 1.44 ERA and earning first-team Palm Beach Post all-area honors. He has signed a letter of intent with Florida but remains eligible for the major league draft in June. He is projected to be selected in rounds 8-12.
Though scouts prefer tall, lean kids who will fill out their frames - projectability is the buzzword - some think they've found a gem in Smith.
"He's a tremendous competitor. There might be people who are bigger, stronger. But they don't have the heart he does," a National League scout said.
Smith has command of a pro-level arsenal of pitches: a late-life four-seam fastball, a two-seamer that tails away from lefties, a nasty, late-breaking curveball and a changeup thrown with a split-finger grip.
Smith said he finally mastered his change Feb. 25 against Atlantic. That night, he threw a no-hitter with 14 strikeouts.
An NL scout described Smith's repertoire as "the stuff to get major-league hitters out."
Because of his size, he can't rely on sheer strength to pitch in the low 90s and occasionally reach 95 mph.
"I have to use everything I have to get it up there," Smith said.
He developed his fluid, low-effort delivery with help from his personal coach, Cardinal Newman alum David Manning.
Thanks to his mechanics and a pro-style off-day routine of running and throwing, Smith regularly fires 110 bullets or more in an era of hand-wringing over pitch counts.
"When I watch him throw now, it's like watching a professional, polished pitcher throw," Manning said.
Franco said he has seen his ace get shelled once, last year against Park Vista when he gave up five earned runs. Smith has allowed one earned run this season, in a win over then-No. 1 Palm Beach Central.
"Major-league scouts might be scared because of Kyle's size," Franco said. "But I think he's the best pitcher in the state. There's something about him."
His parents, Tom and Marla, have hosted pro scouts at their Lake Worth home, but Smith said he won't think about his future until he helps Santaluces win its first district playoff game in three seasons.
If he goes to Florida, he'll join a recruiting class that could include pitchers Michael Kelly (West Boca Raton), Ryan Harris (Jupiter) and Bobby Poyner (Palm Beach Central).
Smith said he is honored to be committed to the Gators, but would welcome the challenge of starting a pro career.
"Either or is fine with me," he said. "As long as I'm playing baseball, I'm happy."
Nothing makes him happier than to have the game in his hands.
In a recent Friday night game at district rival Park Vista, Smith was on the mound with the score tied, two outs in the seventh and a 2-2 count.
At that point, he had thrown 110 pitches, 80 of them strikes. On his last pitch, his catcher set up low and away. Smith stared in and began that free and easy motion, breaking off a wicked curveball.
The bat never moved. Neither did the glove.