The 2021-22 Gatorade South Carolina Baseball Player of the Year, Tristan Smith is another top prep left-hander in the 2022 MLB Draft class. He was a strong two-way player at Boiling Springs High School but is a top prospect as a pitcher. The southpaw is committed to the University of Clemson, but he could forgo his commitment if he is selected early enough in the draft. If not, he will be eligible again in 2024. Let’s take a look at what Smith brings to the mound.
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Tristan Smith, LHP, Boiling Springs (SC)
Weight: 200 lbs.
2022: 51.2 IP, 6-1, 0.54 ERA, 120 K, 22 BB
Smith was a 2021 Perfect Game All-American Game invitee and a member of the 2021 Team USA 18U National Team. He was the first player from Boiling Springs to be named the Gatorade South Carolina Baseball Player of the Year and was a finalist for Gatorade’s National Baseball Player of the Year award. Clemson will have a star-studded top two in their rotation if Smith and Brock Porter are to keep their commitments. Smith has the makings of a future power pitcher in the big leagues.
Smith has a strong fastball-slider combination, as both have a chance to be plus pitches. He has an effortless, cross-body delivery that is very repeatable and carries plenty of deception with it. His fastball has reached as high as 96 mph and consistently sits around 90-94 mph with a high spin rate. The fastball is explosive and has some sinking and tailing action. His sweeping slider frequently sits in the high-70s range. He commands both these pitches well, and the slider also has high spin rates, reaching around 3000 RPM. This combination is very deceptive, and the speed difference gets hitters off balance. The slider can reach as high as 83 mph and at times has more downward curving action than sweep.
Smith needs to work on using his changeup more to have a full starter arsenal. He barely used the pitch on the showcase circuit, although he does have a solid feel for it when he uses it. It sits in the low-80s and with improved usage would create a different look for hitters and a change of speed. If he can’t improve this pitch, Smith might be more fit for the bullpen with his fastball-slider combo. Along with this, while he is athletic and has a strong delivery, he needs to work on consistently commanding his pitches. There are too often times his pitches find the middle of the zone and he will get hit hard. The walk rate is low, but he needs to trust his stuff and just pitch to the catcher’s target.
Pro Comparison: Chris Sale
While not as tall, Smith is built similarly to Sale and uses the same pitches. Sale was a bit of a late bloomer, as he wasn’t a high draft prospect as a high schooler and went to a small college, in Florida Gulf Coast University. As lanky as he is, the Red Sox lefty has had injury issues in his career, and going into the 2010 draft had concerns he’d be more of a reliever. But after being selected 13th overall by the Chicago White Sox, he turned himself into a formidable starter for years. Sale quickly made his major league debut that same year and spent his first two seasons in the bullpen before transitioning to the rotation. Smith could be headed towards a similar path, although he won’t be drafted as high.
Draft Projection: Early Second Round
With as many prep arms there are in this draft, especially left-handers, Smith looks ticketed for the second round. He may sneak into the back-end of the first round or the competitive balance round A, and either way has a chance to receive a high enough bonus to forgo his commitment. Perhaps an up-and-coming team like the Baltimore Orioles could select him at pick 33 or pick 42. The Orioles have another strong left-hander in DL Hall in their system, whom they also selected out of high school. Right-hander Grayson Rodriguez leads their system as the top prospect.
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