The 2021 MLB Draft begins on July 11, 2021, and unlike in 2020, this will be a twenty round draft — shorter than the forty rounds the draft has been in the most recent years prior to 2020, but longer than last year’s five round version. The Rangers’ top three picks are at #2, #38, and #73.
In the coming days, we will be doing write-ups of potential Texas Ranger draft picks, looking both at players who are in the mix at #2 and players who would be candidates to be picked in the second or third rounds. Today we are looking at University of Alabama righthanded pitcher Dylan Smith.
Dylan Smith is a 6’2”, 180 lb. righthanded pitcher for the University of Alabama. Smith was drafted by the San Diego Padres out of Stafford, Texas, a suburb of Houston, in the 18th round of the 2018 draft, but opted to go to Alabama instead of signing. Smith pitched just 16.2 innings over 13 games in relief as a freshman, walking (11) almost as many as he struck out (12) while putting up a 6.48 ERA. He followed that up with 6 nondescript innings in 2020 before COVID-19 struck.
Smith has had a breakout year in 2021, taking over the role of Friday night starter for Alabama. He’s logged 98.1 innings over 16 starts, striking out 113 against just 20 walks, though he has been a bit homer prone, allowing 14 bombs this season. He has a 3.84 ERA on the year.
Smith’s improved performance is seen as being a product of increased velocity — MLB Pipeline has him in the low-90s currently, and says he has touched 95 mph — as well as improved control, as reflected by his 2021 rate of fewer than two walks per nine innings. He’s described as having a quality four pitch mix with his slider being his best secondary, but all three of his secondaries being potential average or better pitches.
Smith doesn’t have overwhelming stuff, and while he has good control the reports indicate there needs to be improvement with his command. Smith is seen as having projection remaining given his build, which would potentially mean additional velocity. He also is described as having the sort of athleticism and delivery which lends itself to developing quality command
Baseball America has Smith at #56 on their current top 500 draft list. MLB Pipeline has Smith at #74 on their board. Over at ESPN Kiley McDaniel has Smith at #44 on his current board. Fangraphs has does not have Smith on their board. Keith Law is the high guy on Smith, placing him at #25 on his board.
Smith is described by Keith Law as being the rare college pitcher who is “still more projection than present stuff,” but even his current stuff is pretty decent. Throwing in the low 90s, even for a righthanded pitcher, isn’t something to sneeze at, and there aren’t a ton of amateur pitchers who can throw four pitches for strikes.
Smith is another one of these pitchers we have talked about as a potential second round pick who has some traits of a potential good major league starting pitcher, but has some work to do to get to where you can project that. He doesn’t throw his changeup much, though the reports on the change indicate that he has a decent feel for it, and he needs to improve his command, though he has the traits that lead scouts to believe that’s something he can do. It would be nice if he could add some velocity as well, and that is something that could happen, but even if he doesn’t, improved command and the changeup being more reliable would probably get him to the majors.