Dylan Smith made one start in 17 appearances between his first two years at the University of Alabama. Expectations were not overly high for the junior right-handed pitcher entering this season, especially after he posted a 6.48 ERA and 5.68 ERA in his freshman and sophomore years, respectively.
Smith also didn’t enter the season as Alabama’s top starter. But after left-hander Connor Prielipp, the ace of Alabama’s pitching staff, missed time with an injury, Smith seized the top spot in the rotation.
He excelled in the role, posting a 3.84 ERA with 113 strikeouts and 20 walks allowed in 98 1/3 innings. His breakout season has caused him to vault up MLB draft boards. Scouts project the Alabama right-hander as a likely second-round pick in July’s draft.
Over the last three years, Smith has refined his skills on the mound. He had a breakout junior season this spring to enhance his status for July’s draft. Scouts project Smith as a likely second-round pick in this year’s draft.
“Every kid that plays baseball wants to play professionally,” Smith said. “It’s a blessing that I am getting an opportunity that I am and the looks that I am as a young prospect. It’s a blessing.”
Smith is a 6-foot-2, 180-pound right-handed pitcher who throws a four-seam fastball, 12-to-6 curveball, slider and splitter from a three-quarters arm slot and an athletic and low-effort delivery.
Smith’s fastball sits in the low-90s and has topped out at 96 mph. His slider is an above-average pitch that has been his best swing-and-miss offering. It features notable tilt.
His curveball also is a quality-breaking pitch that has power and solid break. Smith displays a feel for his changeup, and it has the potential to develop into an average offering in the future.
“I feel like my athleticism on the mound and my knowledge as a pitcher for the game are my strengths,” Smith said.
Smith has intriguing tools and potential that cause scouts to project him as a starter in pro ball. However, he will need to add strength to his frame and refine his command to thrive at a high level at the next level.
“I am always looking to improve my game,” Smith said. “I want to command my fastball a little bit better than I did this season. During the season, I had control of the fastball but not too my command of it. I felt like my command could be streaky at times. I also want to throw my changeup to both sides of the plate and utilize it more.”
Smith was a two-sport athlete out of the Texas high school ranks. He had college football interest from numerous Division I programs, including the University of Southern California and the University of Arizona.
Although he garnered college interest in baseball and football, Smith knew his future was in baseball. The San Diego Padres drafted the right-handed pitcher in the 18th round of the 2018 draft, but Smith honored his commitment to Alabama.
The decision to attend Alabama has paid off, as Smith has developed into one of the top pitchers in college baseball over the last three years.
“As I look back on high school, I wasn’t really a pitcher,” Smith said. “I played center field in high school. I only came out of high school with about 40 innings of pitching my senior year.
“So a big thing for me in college was the development and being able to focus on pitching. I have been able to develop here at Alabama.”
Dan Zielinski III has covered the MLB draft for six years. He has interviewed 253 of the top draft prospects in that period, including three No. 1 overall picks. Multiple publications, including Baseball America, USA Today, MLB.com and The Arizona Republic, have quoted his work, while he has appeared on radio stations as a “MLB draft expert.” Follow him on Twitter @DanZielinski3.