The Milwaukee Brewers have selected their first pitcher since the 2019 MLB Draft, and it is left-hander Russell Smith out of Texas Christian University. The 22 year old (23 in September) was a senior who appeared in three seasons at TCU, missing all of 2019 due to Tommy John surgery.
During his time at TCU, Smith posted a 3.62 ERA across 25 starts and 121.2 innings pitched, with 144 strikeouts versus 32 walks. He looked on the verge of a breakout during the shortened 2020 season after returning from his elbow surgery, posting a 2.57 ERA and 27:2 K/BB ratio in 21.0 innings across four starts, then followed that up with a 3.83 ERA and 101:20 K/BB ratio in 15 starts and 82.1 frames this season. That propelled Smith up draft boards, where he was seen as a “relatively low-ceiling draft pick, but one who also has a very good chance to be a big leaguer” according to Baseball America.
Here is some more of what Baseball America had to say about Smith, who was ranked as the #111 prospect in the draft before getting chosen at #51 by Milwaukee:
(111) LHP Russell Smith
BA Grade: 45 | Risk: High
Fastball: 50 | Slider: 50 | Changeup: 55 | Control: 55
Watch a massive (6-foot-9, 235 pounds) long-levered lefty and you would expect big stuff and little idea of where it’s going. With such a massive frame it would understandably take quite a while for Smith to grow into his delivery. But that’s not him. Smith doesn’t have big stuff—he can touch 94-95 mph but he will generally pitch at 90-92. But he has a very smooth, repeatable delivery with solid body control. And Smith’s fastball plays well up in the strike zone with good vertical movement. It sets up his above-average 82-85 mph changeup which he commands extremely well. Smith throws his changeup almost always down and away to righthanded hitters and he rarely misses his spot. It’s a quality creator of ground balls, but it’s good enough to get some swings and misses as well. His average slider is somewhat sweepy, but he will bury it with two strikes...Whether that role is as a big lefty middle reliever or a back-of-the-rotation starter, his ability to consistently throw three pitches for strikes and attack four quadrants of the strike zone make him a valuable pro prospect.
The slot value for pick #51 is $1,436,900.