Lefthander Matt Smoral pitched in Vancouver in 2014 and 2016.
Here is another chapter of 2016 Vancouver Canadians that are no longer in the Toronto Blue Jays system. We start with two players who were high draft picks by the Jays from earlier in the decade.
Matt Smoral‘s tenure with the Blue Jays ended December 8 when he was selected by the Texas Rangers in the Triple-A phase of the Rule 5 draft. The 6-foot-8 lefthander was the 50th pick of the 2012 draft from Solon High School in Ohio, getting a $2 milllion signing bonus. He began his pro tenure in the Gulf Coast League in 2013 and despite striking out 27 batters in 25 innings, he also walked 26 and plunked 10 to give him a 0-2 record with a 7.01 earned run average.
Smoral moved up to Bluefield in 2014 and turned in a dominating eight-strikeout performance in three innings in his first game June 23. He was scored upon in his next six appearances split between the starting rotation and the bullpen that saw his ERA climb to a high of 8.68 but a nine-K outing over five innings July 19 turned around his season, helping cut down his ERA to 3.99 before getting summoned to Vancouver.
Smoral’s C’s debut was a rough one as he gave up three runs in two-thirds of an inning against the Tri-City Dust Devils at home August 10. He rebounded with five shutout innings in his first start to earn a home victory against Everett August 15. Smoral improved to C’s record to 2-0 with another victory in Eugene August 26. Five days later, he was on the hill to help give the C’s a chance to clinch the second half North Division title. The Solon, Ohio native gave up two runs in the first but shut down the Spokane Indians over the next four innings as Vancouver eventually rallied to earn a playoff berth.
Smoral’s last outing of the year would turn out to be Vancouver’s final game of 2014. He took the Game 2 loss as the Hillsboro Hops dethroned the C’s as Northwest League champions. However, Smoral appeared to be turning a corner as he was named a post-season All-Star in the Appalachian League.
As promising as 2014 looked, 2015 was just as disappointing. Smoral had a late start to the season due to a back injury and did not see the mound until late May. He began the year with two scoreless one-inning outings, earning his first Florida State League victory by striking out the side June 1. However, things took a turn for the worse as he gave up six runs over two innings over three appearances and that led to a demotion to Bluefield. His season there came to a horrific end when he took a comebacker in the face during a relief outing in Pulaski August 23.
Smoral found himself back in Vancouver for 2016 where his conversion to the bullpen continued. Returning to the Nat Bailey Stadium mound for the first time in two seasons, he was knocked around for three runs on one hit, two walks and a hit by pitch in one inning during the June 20 home opener against Everett. He tossed a perfect frame four days later against Hillsboro but was torched for three runs June 29 on two hits and three walks over one frame.
Smoral’s best outing of 2016 was his longest as he tossed three shutout innings at home against Spokane July 3. That would be the last time his ERA would be below 10.00 as he was whacked for four runs without getting an out in Salem-Keizer July 6 after surrendering two hits and two walks along with two hit by pitches. He would strike out the side in his next appearance at home July 11 but he could not shutout the opposition in his last four appearances. He struck out four in his final outing but he yielded three runs over two innings in Everett July 28. Smoral had been working on a new delivery but it didn’t take as his velocity was topping out in the high 80 mile-per-hour range. He was rated the Blue Jays ninth-best prospect in 2012 by Baseball America before slipping to #31 in 2015. Now 23 years old, Smoral gets a new lease on life with the Texas organization.
Jacob Anderson split 2016 between the Lansing Lugnuts and the Vancouver Canadians.
All was quiet on the transaction front until last month when the Blue Jays cut loose another highly-rated prospect in outfielder Jacob Anderson, who was taken 35th overall in 2011 out of Chino High School in California. The Chino native turned down the chance to go to Pepperdine after the Jays gave him a signing bonus of $990,000. He reported to the Gulf Coast League after the draft and hit .405 with a 1.098 on-base-plus-slugging percentage in 37 at-bats with two home runs, two doubles, two stolen bases and seven runs batted in.
Anderson’s stock dropped in 2012 when he hit just .194 in Bluefield with an OPS of .575. He missed all of 2013 and most of 2014 with knee and shoulder injuries, getting just 10 at-bats and one hit with Bluefield in 2014. Injuries delay Anderson’s start in 2015 with Bluefield as he finally hit the field in late July but hit just .159 in his first extended action in three years.
The 6-foot-4 right-handed hitting outfielder got to play in April for the first time as a pro in 2016 as he began the year with the Lansing Lugnuts. He began the year with three hits in his first eight at-bats and collected his first Midwest League home run April 22 but highlights were few and far between as he endured a 0-for-21 slump in May, hitting just .146 when he was sent down to Vancouver.
Anderson had a single and a walk on Opening Day in Spokane June 17. His first Northwest League home run came at the Nat June 23 and was the difference in the C’s 4-2 victory over Hillsboro. That was part of a three-game stretch that saw Anderson go 7-for-11 to lift his batting average to .385. He ended June with a .317 average but it was all downhill from there as his monthly averages were .224, .187 and .145 from July to September; finishing with an overall line of .226/.292/.316 with eight doubles, three homers and 26 RBI. The 24 year-old has yet to find work with another major league club.