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Drew Smyly is who he was, and always will be

Drew Smyly looks to pick up where he left off; healthy and effective.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

LHP Drew Smyly is set to be the team's likely #2 starting pitcher, slotting into the 2016 rotation just after ace Chris Archer. Smyly has occasionally flashed ace potential, and he regularly puts together strings of quality starts, but he's yet to make it through a full season in a starting rotation. Will 2016 be his breakout year?

Past Performance

Drew Smyly was one of the pieces that came to the Rays from the Tigers in the David Price deal. Though most first impressions were that the Rays lost that 2014 trade, Smyly pitched extremely well for the Rays that year. Over those seven starts to close out 2014, he posted a 1.70 ERA, 3.07 FIP and 3.40 xFIP over 47.2 IP, making it easier for Rays fans to accept Price's loss.

Smyly started 2015 in similarly strong fashion, but he was only able to last three starts before acknowledging some shoulder pain. Drew would miss nearly three and a half months with a partial labrum tear in his left shoulder. If you were worried the injury would affect any of his mechanics or pitches, take a look at these charts to ease your worries.

We see the velocities on all of his pitches stayed right in line with career norms after the injury. That is a great sign.

Horizontal movement on all of the pitches looks good, check.

And here is the vertical movement. Everything looks good.

Actually, everything looks really good. 12" of rise on the fourseam is impressive for a starter.

Okay that's enough charts for now. If you were thinking, "Well, what about his release point?" Fear not, you can find those data here. It does look like it slipped down slightly, but the change isn't very drastic. I imagine that would be a point of emphasis this spring if the Rays thought much of it.

The point is, it doesn't look like the injury affected Smyly's stuff at all, even if it did affect how many innings he could throw. Smyly ended the season with 66.2 major league innings pitched. That will probably play a major role in deciding how many innings he will be able to go this year. Will he have a short leash every game? Will he move to the bullpen later in the year?

2016 Projections

The projection systems think Smyly is an above average starter who won't see a full season of starts. That seems to be a reasonable assessment considering his past performance.

System Games Innings K/9 BB/9 ERA FIP WAR
Steamer 24 142 8.71 2.77 3.28 3.71 2.2
ZiPS 23 118.2 9.18 2.5 3.64 3.73 1.8
Marcels 93 8.7 2.6 3.39
PECOTA 28 148 9.18 2.68 3.56 1.6*

*WARp is not the same scale as the scores above, which are fWAR

Drew Smyly was cruising along through his spring outings before a shellacking last Friday. His spring numbers are still impressive at 3.39 ERA, 14 K, 2 BB in 16.0 IP.  The spring gives us a taste of what Smyly can bring, with only potential innings limits or, heaven forbid, poor health as potential obstacles.

Those concerns notwithstanding, we can certainly look forward to watching an above average starter capable of quality starts every fifth night.