Travis Smith looks to take next step in development

Travis Smith became a key piece in Kentucky’s starting rotation last season. Kentucky eased the talented right-handed pitcher back into action after he missed his first year due to Tommy John and heart surgery.

Missing a season changed Smith’s perspective on the game. It also motivated him to return and play a productive role for Kentucky. After a solid 2023 season, which included four shutout innings in an NCAA Tournament Regional contest against Ball State, Smith enters this season with higher expectations.

Smith is Kentucky’s No. 1 starter. He has made tremendous strides at Kentucky to become a must-watch player this spring. With a strong season, Smith has the potential to be an early-round pick in July’s MLB draft.

“(Pitching coach Dan Roszel) does a nice job of developing guys here,” Smith said. “Every guy that comes through has gotten better. He’s been the biggest part in helping me develop as a pitcher. Knowing my strengths, weaknesses and what can get guys out at this level and the next level. He has prepared me very well for the next level.”

Smith, a Kentucky native, started as a mid-week starter for Kentucky before transitioning to the top spot in the team’s rotation last year. He posted a 4.84 ERA with 43 strikeouts and 26 walks allowed in 48 1/3 innings (13 starts) in 2023.

This season, Smith hopes to take the next step in his development as Kentucky’s top starter.

“Growing up in Kentucky, I was a big Kentucky fan my entire life,” Smith said. “I pretty much knew I wanted to come here. Getting the opportunity to come here and play ball was great. I took the time off to get better and learn the game. I felt like I was ready to go then once I came back.”

Smith is a 6-foot-5, 230-pound right-handed pitcher who throws a four-seam fastball, sinker, changeup, curveball and cutter from a three-quarters arm slot.

Smith relies heavily on his sinker. He uses it to attack hitters low in the strike zone to generate ground balls, especially early in the count. He’s confident throwing his four-seamer. It’s a mid-90s offering he is comfortable throwing in any count and quadrant of the strike zone, especially up in the zone.

His curveball is a sold pitch that generates swings and misses. In the fall, he worked on his changeup and added a cutter into his pitch mix. He uses his cutter to attack lefties on the inside part of the plate and righties on the outer half of the zone.

“For me, my velo is big, but I also go out there and am consistent each week,” Smith said. “I can pitch long into games, help my bullpen out and help my team win games any way I can.”

With a year of experience, Smith has focused on tightening up his mechanics and pitches. He aims to limit his mistake pitches and pitch deeper into games this spring.

“I just need to be more consistent,” Smith said. “I need to go out there and give coach Roszel six, seven good innings week in and week out to help the team win games.”

Smith will play a key role in Kentucky’s success this season.

Expectations are high for the Wildcats this spring after a notable 2023 season. Last season, the Wildcats made the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2017 and then won a regional for the second time in program history, which also occurred in 2017. They finished with a 40-21 record last season.

The Wildcats hope to take the next step as a program this spring. They return multiple critical pieces from last year, including Smith, and believe last season’s experience will propel them to a deeper postseason run. The Wildcats’ goal is to make it to the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska.

“The goal is Omaha,” Smith said. “We want to be the first team to do it here. We have all the key pieces that we had last year, and I feel like we brought in some good new pieces who will play a role.”

Read more in-depth stories on top 2024 MLB draft prospects at Baseball Prospect Journal.

Video of Travis Smith pitching in high school.

Dan Zielinski III has covered the MLB draft for nine years. He has interviewed 518 of the top draft prospects in that period, including four No. 1 overall picks. Multiple publications, including Baseball America, USA Today,, The Arizona Republic and The Dallas Morning News, have quoted his work, while he has appeared on radio stations as a “MLB draft expert.” Follow him on Twitter @DanZielinski3.

Dan Zielinski III
Dan Zielinski III
Dan Zielinski III is the creator of the Baseball Prospect Journal and has covered the MLB draft since 2015. His draft work originally appeared on, a sports website he started in December 2011. He also covered the Milwaukee Brewers as a member of the credentialed media for four years. Follow him on Twitter @DanZielinski3.

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