Potential Twins Bullpen Target: Will Smith, LHP, Giants
Image courtesy of © John Hefti-USA TODAY SportsWill Smith, LHP, 29-years-old
San Francisco Giants (33-43, 5th in NL West)
Free Agent following 2019 season.
2018: 2.55 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 12.06 K/9, 2.55 BB/9 in 53 IP
2019: 2.01 ERA, 0.77 WHIP, 13.50 K/9, 2.01 BB/9 in 31.1 IP
What’s To Like
There is a lot to like about Will Smith. He has been a very effective pitcher for the majority of his career and has taken his game to the next level over the past two seasons in San Francisco. It’s no secret that the Giants are not a very good team but when they have had opportunities to win, Will Smith has done an excellent job locking them down. He has converted all twenty of his save opportunities this year and his numbers get even more impressive than that.
It is not uncommon for left-handed pitchers, relievers especially, to struggle against right-handed hitters. That has not been the case for Smith. His season splits are very favorable against left and right-handed hitters. In 2019 right-handed hitters have hit .152/.212/.278 compared to .172/.200/.276 for left-handed hitters when facing Will Smith.
Oracle Park in San Francisco has forever been one of the most pitcher-friendly parks in the league. ESPN currently has Oracle Park ranked as the 24th best park for scoring runs. One might assume that Will Smith has benefited from pitching in such a pitcher-friendly ballpark, but his home/road splits are very favorable as well. In 13 ⅓ innings away from Oracle Park, Will Smith has held batters to a very pedestrian .070/.111/.233 while raking up 27 K and a minuscule 1.35 ERA.
As discussed above, there is a whole lot to like about Will Smith, but that doesn’t mean he comes without any concerns. Smith missed all of 2017 rehabbing from Tommy John surgery and even though he has pitched well since returning to the mound, the surgery is still worth mentioning.
The surgery is not the only concern either. He will become a free agent after this season so acquiring Smith will very likely be a rental acquisition, unless Minnesota is able to negotiate a longer term contract before the season ends.
Another concern with Smith is not about his on-field body of work, but rather the price to acquire his talents. Highly effective left-handed relievers are a hot commodity at the trade deadline and with San Francisco in a rebuild, they will very likely be seeking a hefty exchange for Smith.
The last concern with Smith is his second half stats from 2018. Overall on the season he pitched very well but he did struggle a bit in the second half. Over the second half of 2018, opposing hitters were a combined .231/.293/.363 compared to .160/.211/.210 in the first half. His ERA also ballooned to 4.18 in the second half compared to his 1.23 ERA in the first half.
His 2018 second half struggles could be a reason to pause or possibly pass on Smith given the uncertainty of how he will perform in the second half of 2019. But what he’s done so far this season is nothing short of impressive and he is certainly a very legitimate trade target for the Minnesota Twins.
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