East Robertson pitcher Peyton Smith has been lighting up radar guns around the Southeast over the last month, furthering the notion that he could hear his name called in the 2021 MLB Draft.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic stopped his spring season after just one game, it hasn’t kept the right-hander from ramping up his velocity this summer while playing for Team Elite Black, which is comprised of highly ranked college commitments from across the U.S.
Smith has consistently thrown in the mid-90s in his recent outings, even hitting 97 mph at the Prep Baseball Report (PBR) Classic in Emerson, Georgia. That’s an increase of 7 mph from his 2019 high of 90 mph. It may not be his last jump, either.
“It’s an easy 97,” said Team Elite Black manager Jamie Crane, who is also an associate scout for the Atlanta Braves. “He could very easily be a 100-mph arm coming out of high school.”
Much of the increase can be attributed to his offseason efforts in the weight room. Smith, a Vanderbilt commit, has added nearly 30 pounds over the last year and now stands at 6-foot-4, 212 pounds.
“Ever since I’ve put on weight, I’ve put on miles per hour to my fastball,” he said. “I’m just going to keep trying to go up.”
Smith also cleaned up his mechanics and threw bullpen sessions throughout the shutdown. He wanted to be in shape and have his arm ready for what he anticipated to be a “very competitive” summer schedule.
The early returns have been promising.
“He’s been great,” Crane said. “His fastball has been electric, and his changeup falls off the table. The kid works hard.”
PBR ranks Smith as the No. 6 prospect in Tennessee for the 2021 class. Phil Kerber, the scouting director for PBR Georgia, was complimentary of Smith after watching him throw in the PBR Classic.
“Batters don’t know what’s coming,” Kerber said in a video on Twitter. “He keeps everything in sync and focused. He’s a power arm.”
But Smith isn’t just about speed – he has also shown command of his pitches. He struck out 116 batters and walked just 18 as a sophomore at East Robertson in 2019. In his lone outing for the Indians this spring, Smith threw four hitless innings, fanned 10 East Nashville batters and did not issue a walk.
By all accounts, the increased velocity hasn’t diminished his ability to locate pitches.
“That’s something that’s been different with him since he was a freshman,” East Robertson baseball coach Derek Wix said. “He had above average velocity for a 14-year-old, but he knew where every ball was going. That’s dangerous, especially if he can continue to maintain accuracy with all his pitches.”
Added Crane: “He’s all over the (strike zone). He doesn’t throw a ball unless he wants to throw a ball.”
Crane and Wix both said that combination of command and velocity make Smith a candidate for the MLB Draft next June.
Whether he will immediately go pro or opt to develop at Vanderbilt is to be determined. That decision will likely hinge on how high Smith is selected and how much of a signing bonus he is offered.
“That’s going to be up to him and his family,” Wix said. “I think he’s going to be successful in either avenue that he decides to go down. He’s going to be a special pitcher for a long time, whether he decides to go play for (Vanderbilt) coach (Tim) Corbin or go to the pros.”
The way Smith sees it, he’s working with two good options.
“I get to go to Vanderbilt, one of the top baseball programs in the country – you can’t go wrong with that,” he said. “Or you (can) get drafted. Either way, it’s going to work out.”