17 October, 2005

Alex Smit Dispatches - Post-season special

Donutball takes this opportunity to tidy up Alexander Smit's numbers and his unusual post-season. Readers will recall that the young Dutch lefty has been adopted by the good folks at Donutball. Some eye-popping numbers and the fact that he's one of a few Europeans playing ball in the 'States piques our interest.

Smit started the season at Minnesota's low A affiliate, the Beloit Snappers of the Midwest League. In his web diary, he admitted that he lost the sharpness of his curve ball, the youngster's out pitch. It shows from his numbers.

Smit went 1-9 with a 5.98 ERA. He started 10 games and relieved in 4, pitching 49.2 innings, giving up 58 hits, including 9 homers and 28 walks. Smit still picked up 54 strike outs.

So, to Smit's surprise, in July he found himself back in the Appy League. Not only that, he started working exclusively out of the bullpen, usually in short relief. Smit pitched a lot of two inning games and a lot of those games he struck out 5 or more batters.

His numbers back in the Appy League were awesome. In 21 games he went 6-1 with 3 saves, pitching 45.2 innings. He allowed just 25 hits and 12 walks. That's a WHIP of 0.81. Smit fanned 86 batters to lead the league. Think about that. A middle reliever led the league in Strikeouts - at a rate of 16.9 per 9 innings. Ring 'em up!

At the end of the season, Smit was ranked the top LHP in the Appy League. Baseball America ranks him 17th in the Twins system. That's an improvement from 20th last year. He gets a mention on a Twins farm blog and has had features in Baseball America (subscription required) and MILB.com.

We're impressed here that young Smit bounced back from what must have been a big disappointment. Obviously, he's had nothing but success in his short career, over in Holland and in two previous seasons in the Twins system. Those few months in Beloit deflated him. A trip back to the mountains was a wake-up call. Big bonus or not: you have to perform well. To his immense credit, he put in a superb effort at Elizabethton. The Twins must be quietly pleased.

2005 was the first season since signing with Minnesota as a raw 16 year old that Smit pitched the whole season in the US. In both 2003 and 2004, Smit returned to Europe to pitch for the Dutch national side. In 2004, he pitched twice for Holland in the Olympics.

This year Smit completed the season for Elizabethton. But, whilst his teammates went on to the Apply League playoffs - which they won 2 games to 1 over the Danville Braves - Smit again flew across the Atlantic. This time it was for the World Cup hosted by Holland.

The Dutch lost just once in the round robin group phase, against eventual champions Cuba. But, after thumping Puerto Rico 10-0 in the quarter finals, Korea stunned the home side 7-0 in the semis and Panama beat them 7-6 in the third place playoff. Still fourth place was a great achievement for the Netherlands. Smit played no small part in their standing.

Again pitching from the bullpen, he had 4 outings with 5 2/3 innings was 1-0 with a 3.18 ERA. He gave up two runs on 3 hits and one walk. Continuing his propensity for the strike out, he had 8 Ks.

What does next year hold? Guess work on the part of Donutball, but Smit will probably get another look in at Low A Beloit, probably for the whole season. He's now had a full season plus parts of two others at Rookie ball. His move to the bullpen indicates that's where his future might lie. This year's performances were solid after a few wobbles early on. Minnesota is concerned that Smit does not get the velocity on his heater. Smit will live on the curve. He is still very young - only just 20. 2006 will be an important year in his development. One intriguing scenario would see Smit pitching for Holland in the World Baseball Classic.

Whatever happens, Donutball will be watching.


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