While he is flying under the radar of Pirate fans right now, it would not be a surprise to see lefty Caleb Smith crack the team's Opening Day roster
Many times in spring training non-roster invitees can be overlooked, maybe even forgotten. For the Pittsburgh Pirates, there are multiple noteworthy non-roster invitees in camp who could make the Opening Day roster. In fact, with the team uncertain who the backup catcher will be behind Austin Hedges at least one non-roster invitee, either Tyler Heineman or Kevin Plawecki, is guaranteed to crack the Opening Day roster.
There are a few other non-roster invitees who could crack the team's Opening Day roster as well. One of these players is a left-handed reliever who was recently signed. That pitcher is 31-year-old Caleb Smith.
While Smith is a player that is generating little buzz among Pirate fans, he is a player that people should not be overlooking this spring. For multiple reasons, it would not be a surprise to see Smith head north with the Pittsburgh Pirates to Cincinnati for Opening Day.
A full-time starting pitcher until the past two seasons, Smith could pitch in long relief roles for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2023. This is the first reason why he could crack the team's Opening Day roster, as this is a role that is up in the air for the upcoming season.
Smith could give the Pirates multiple innings out of the bullpen in a variety of ways. Derek Shelton could go to him early in the game in long relief when a starting pitcher is struggling, he could give the team multiple innings in an extra innings marathon, or he could cover multiple innings in middle or even late relief on nights the bullpen might be short.
Another role Smith could play for the Pirates is giving them another left-handed relief option. Right now, the only left-handed relievers on the team's 40-man roster are Jarlín García and Jose Hernandez. While you feel good about García, being a Rule 5 Draft selection Hernandez is a complete unknown and it's not a given he cracks the team's Opening Day roster.
A major league team can never have enough left-handed pitching. Especially left-handed pitching coming out of their bullpen. This alone is a reason that Smith could crack the Pirate Opening Day roster.
Finally, and maybe most importantly, Smith is healthy. Pitching coach Oscar Marin mentioned that when he met with the media in Bradenton on Thursday. "He's healthy now," Marin told the media. This came after Marin called Smith a "guy who knows how to pitch."
Marin certainly sounded like a pitching coach who could be excited by having Smith in his bullpen.
Last season, Smith posted a 4.11 ERA in 70.0 innings pitched with the Arizona Diamondbacks. In his MLB career, he owns a 4.55 ERA and a 5.04 FIP. However, in his career, he owns a 3.55 ERA, .213 opponent batting average, 4.62 FIP, and a 25.3% strikeout rate as a reliever. So, his work as a reliever has been better than his work as a starting pitcher.
Looking ahead to Grapefruit League action Smith is a pitcher that Pirate fans should be keeping an eye on. It would not be a surprise to see Smith crack the team's Opening Day roster as a reliever, and there are multiple roles he could play out of the Pirate bullpen.