When faced with the absence of injured regular pitcher Clayton Richard in their lineup, the San Diego Padres looked to their prospects for a solution. But instead of promoting one of their prospect pitchers with Major League experience, the Padres went a different route, calling up a player who has never made it quite this close before. Tonight, in the Padres’ game against the Tampa Bay Rays, the organization’s 20th-ranked prospect, Burch Smith, will make his Major League debut.
At just 23 years old, Smith has only had six starts in the Double-A San Antonio level, but the Padres clearly see something in this player to allow him to fill in for Richard. This is not the team giving some kid a chance at the big leagues. The right-hander is a dominant pitcher with a strong fastball, something that the Padres are in need of this season. He has a 1.15 ERA in those six starts for San Antonio, and a consistency with his throws that many of the pitchers in the Padres’ bullpen have been struggling with for the past few seasons.
Padres general manager Josh Byrnes told MLB.com that the decision to promote Smith is not just a short term fix; if all goes well in his Major League debut, Smith has the potential to move forward as part of the team roster in the long term.
Smith’s rise to the Majors has been a fast ascent. A 14th-round Draft pick in 2011 out of the University of Oklahoma, he was just in the Cal League this time last year. Let’s see what he can do in the Majors.