Canadian rookie Cade Smith turning heads in strong start for Guardians

Apr 11, 2024 | Sports

Cade Smith has been dominant for the Cleveland Guardians to start his major league career.

Smith, the Vancouver, B.C. native, emerged from the bullpen as a major leaguer for the first time in the sixth inning on March 30 in Oakland, Calif, when the Guardians took on the Athletics, winning 12-3.

He went out and did the unthinkable in his debut, striking out five batters across two innings of work, a Guardians record for a pitcher featured in two innings or less.

And including his impressive debut, Smith has appeared in six games in relief across 7.2 innings so far this season and has yet to give up a run, only walking two batters and surrendering two hits in the process.

Through all the excitement a debut can bring, Smith said he had an in-game approach that focussed on staying calm and staying true to who he was and what he could do.

“I know the things that I do well, and so there’s a huge effort to continually remind myself to do the things that I do well and stick with that and trust it,” Smith said in his media availability on March 30.

Guardians Manager Stephen Vogt said he felt Smith was unbelievable in his first look at the big leagues.

“To see someone make their debut just like that and dominate, it was great, really happy for him,” Vogt said in his March 30 media availability.

“We all root for Cade,” he said. “He’s such a great person.”

Smith was signed by the Guardians as an undrafted free agent in the COVID-shortened 2020 MLB Draft, out of the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Smith’s manager when he was in Hawaii, Mike Trapasso, shared in Vogt’s analysis of Smith’s character.

Trapasso, now the pitching coach of the University of Texas at Arlington, told Humber News that Smith is the type of player who is easy to root for.

“He’s someone that I admire greatly, that I admired greatly when he played for me,” he said.

“You just want that person in your clubhouse [and] that person on your team,” Trapasso said.

And Trapasso said Smith’s pitch mix and mechanics have always been things he’s possessed since day one in Hawaii.

“He’s going to have terrific stuff, he had it at college and obviously in professional baseball he’s improved his stuff even more so,” he said.

According to Fangraphs, Smith currently sits with a 0.2 Wins Above Replacement (WAR), tied for the third-best total among major league relievers and tied for second in his team’s bullpen, only trailing Hunter Gaddis and tied with Guardians all-star closer Emmanuel Clase.

Baseball Savant ranks Smith in the 99th percentile in strikeout percentage, the 96th percentile in expected batting average, and the 83rd percentile in fastball velocity.

Smith only made the team’s 40-man roster this offseason so making the roster was no guarantee.

But Smith forced the Guardians’ hand as Vogt said he earned his spot on the major-league roster.

“He showed us why he earned his spot on here,” he said.

Smith has certainly made the most of his opportunity to this point and he’s now seemingly gained more rust with the Cleveland coaching staff, being placed in higher leverage situations compared to the four-run lead he entered in his debut.

One of these higher-leverage situations came as late as last night when he entered in the seventh inning of a tied game against the White Sox, giving up no runs and adding another strikeout to his stat sheet.

Smith may not have been a guaranteed big-league regular when the season began, but with a 0.00 earned run average and 12 strikeouts in his first six games, he certainly looks the part so far.