Just over a year after becoming Furman University's highest-drafted player in 40 years, Nate Smith continues checking accomplishments off of his pro career's list. On Monday, he turned in his longest and best outing yet in the Arizona Fall League.
The Angels' No. 18 prospect pitched five shutout innings, scattering four hits and striking out six without issuing a walk, as the Mesa Solar Sox fell in a pitchers' duel, 1-0, to the visiting Salt River Rafters.
"He was really using his fastball and change-up, which is his foundation," said Solar Sox pitching coach Matt Wise, who worked with Smith at Class A Advanced Inland Empire during the Minor League season. "He used those really well tonight and was getting back in the swing of things to how he left off the season before he had a little finger injury."
Smith faced traffic on the basepaths in just two innings, giving up a pair of two-out singles in the second and two more in the third. After fanning Salt River's Ryan Casteel to close out the third, the left-hander retired the next six batters he faced to wrap up his night.
"It was a quality outing for him," Wise said of the 2013 eighth-round pick. "He worked quick and controlled the strike zone for the most part. He left a few pitches up that fortunately got hit right at people. It was a positive outing."
In 10 outings with Inland Empire through April and May, Smith went 6-3 with a 3.07 ERA and 51 strikeouts and just 14 walks. That showing resulted in a promotion to Double-A Arkansas, where the 23-year-old went 5-3 with a 2.89 ERA in 11 starts before a broken pinky finger ended his season.
"I was extremely impressed with how he prepares, how he takes care of himself and it showed when he went to Double-A," Wise said. "He had some success there, and he's the exact same guy. There's small tweaks he needs to make in his game. He's his toughest critic, so he's taking it upon himself."
Miami's No. 3 prospect Anthony DeSclafani matched Smith's five shutout innings, yielding four hits and one walk while striking out three. The clubs' bullpens dueled into the eighth, when with one out and runners at second and third, No. 10 Twins prospect Eddie Rosario plated the game's only run with a sacrifice fly that scored Chad Wallach (Marlins).
Minnesota's No. 19 prospect Max Kepler posted the only multi-hit performance of the night with two singles for Salt River. The two teams combined to go 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position while nine pitchers racked up 17 strikeouts while walking only three.