Despite injury, Blue Jays high on Smoral

Despite injury, Blue Jays high on Smoral

TORONTO -- Had a stress fracture in his right foot not caused season-ending surgery, there is a good chance that Matt Smoral, a high school senior, would have been off the board before the Blue Jays selected him in compensation round A of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft.

Smoral was considered to be a first-round talent, but saw his stock drop because he was unable to pitch for the majority of the year.

With his Ohio high school team, Solon, on a spring trip to Myrtle Beach, Smoral and his teammates were enjoying an off-day, when the 6-foot-8 lefty reached down to pick something up and heard a pop -- he instantly knew it was serious.

"It was something that had happened previously," said Smoral's high school coach, Damien Kopkas. "They did the surgery, which was supposed to be more of a preventative surgery to take care of what might have been an existing issue with the structure of his foot."

His rehab is going fine, and the injury isn't expected to plague him in the future, according to Kopkas.

Regardless of the injury, the Blue Jays liked him, and Kopkas knew there was a good chance Toronto would be picking Smoral on Day 1.

"We both fielded a number of calls throughout the year," Kopkas said. "The Blue Jays were one of the teams that were very aggressive in trying to pursue him. I spoke with the Blue Jays multiple times before the season and throughout.

"The Blue Jays were one of the teams that really showed a high level of interest in him. It did not shock me at all when his name was called to go to Toronto."

Blue Jays amatuer scouting director Andrew Tinnish saw enough of Smoral to know what type of talent he has. Tinnish saw him twice last season and walked away impressed.

"He's hard not to like. ... Left-handed pitcher, with good action and a good delivery," Tinnish said. "Great kid, very hard worker. Plus fastball, plus slider.

"You don't find that many left-handers that are that tall with good arm actions, deliveries, good mechanics and the makings of a very good breaking ball."

Kopkas has been the head coach at Solon for the past three years, and says Smoral's size is what jumps out when you see him take the mound. Smoral was a sophomore when Kopkas took over the team, and what he saw was a young pitcher who simply relied on his size and strength. What Kopkas then saw over the years was a player who worked tirelessly to become a true pitcher and work on his balance on the mound.

Smoral has a fastball that can touch 95-mph and sits low-90s, a slider that he can throw in the mid-80s, that Kopkas says has plenty of sink into right-handers, and an above-average changeup that he throws in the low-80s.