Springdale, AR - One of the most storied pitchers in Naturals history was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers earlier today.
This morning, the Kansas City Royals, the Naturals parent-club, announced that former Naturals left-handed starting pitcher Will Smith was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for Outfielder Norichika Aoki (pronounced: nor-EACH-kah AH-okee). The exchange marked the second time Smith, 24, has been traded in his professional career. The Royals acquired the Georgia-native from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in 2010 along with RHP Sean O'Sullivan for INF Alberto Callaspo on July 22, 2010.
After the trade Smith went 4-1 with a 2.80 ERA in eight starts for HiA - Wilmington, and was added to the Natural roster before the Texas League Playoffs. Then just 20 years old, the left-hander went 1-0 with 2.25 ERA in 12 innings and was the winning pitcher in the clinching game of Texas League Championship. The next season, Smith was the workhorse of the Naturals staff leading the team in innings-pitched (160⅓) and wins (13). On July 19, 2011 in North Little Rock, Smith and Royals RHP Kevin Herrera combined for the first no-hitter in Naturals history. Smith tossed seven hitless innings, and induced a 5-4-3 Triple Play after walking two batters in the fifth. The triple play was also a franchise first, and there is no record of the two feats ever occurring together in any other professional baseball game.
In 27 starts for the Naturals in 2011, Smith went 13-4 with a 3.85 ERA. In 123 innings across two seasons with the Royals, Smith was 8-10 with a 4.76 ERA. In 19 games this past season almost exclusively in relief for Kansas City, the left-hander was 2-1 with a 3.24 ERA in 23⅓ innings.
In 2013, Aoki, 31, completed his second season with the Milwaukee Brewers. The veteran of eight seasons with the Japanese Central League batted .286 with eight homeruns, 37 RBI, and 20 stolen bases in 155 games this past season. He led MLB in fewest strikeouts per at-bat with a 16.9 at-bats per strikeout ratio. In his 2012 MLB rookie campaign, the outfielder batted .288 with 10 homeruns, 50 RBI, and 30 stolen bases in 151 games.
OTHER ALUMNI IN MILWAUKEE: Earlier in the week, Original Natural Irving Falu signed with Milwaukee and was invited to MLB Spring Training. Falu, 30, batted .301 in 101 games with Northwest Arkansas in 2008….Jeff Bianchi ('09, '11), 26, hit .237 in 100 games for the Brewers in 2013 making starts at second base, third base, shortstop, and left field.
The Seventh Season of Naturals Baseball begins Thursday, April 3, 2014 in Frisco, TX. The team opens at Arvest Ballpark on Thursday April 10, 2014 against the same Frisco RoughRiders.
The Northwest Arkansas Naturals are the Double-A Texas League Affiliate of the Kansas City Royals. The Naturals play at state-of-the-art Arvest Ballpark in Springdale, AR. For more information including statistics, ticket options, and more, please visit NWANaturals.com, and follow us on Twitter @NWANaturals and Facebook.com/Naturals.