Russell Smith has always had the potential.
The 6’9” lefty out of Midlothian, TX came to Fort Worth with all the promise in the world, and after a strong start to his career as a true freshman, overcame an injury plagued 2019 and a literal plague in 2020 to become the Horned Frogs’ true ace and Friday night starter.
Monday, he was rewarded for his efforts by hearing his name called by the Milwaukee Brewers, selected in the second round with the 51st pick overall.
Smith has a mid-90s fastball in his arsenal to go with a solid change-up and a filthy slider, a combination that helped his go 7-3 in 2021 with a 3.83 ERA and 101 strikeouts on the season. Smith missed one start this past season, but bounced back to finish strong, putting together a masterclass against Texas Tech (two runs on three hits across 6.0 innings with 10 strikeouts) in the Big 12 Tournament and allowing just two runs on five hits against Dallas Baptist in game two of the Fort Worth Regional, a match the Frogs would ultimately fall in despite the strong start by their ace.
Now, he has a chance to pursue his professional dreams and get the bag — the 51st pick has a slot value of nearly $1,500,000.
Coming into the MLB Draft, Smith was rated the 51st best collegiate prospect by D1 Baseball and the 102nd best prospect overall by MLB.com. Going this early means its highly unlikely he would return to Fort Worth — and he shouldn’t, given the value of a left handed arm and the fact that he does have an injury history. Kirk Saarloos will now wait to see if the other left hander in his rotation gets an offer he can’t refuse, or if the Frogs’ new skipper will be looking at three new starters next spring.
Congrats Russ. Go kill it in the Big Leagues.