There aren’t many guys who can clock 100 mph on their fastball, then follow it up with a deceiving curve that keeps batters guessing.
Luckily for Charleston RiverDogs outfielder Canaan Smith, that guy was in his dugout instead of on the mound pitching against him.
“Luis (Gil) has a loose arm, and he can break a pitch as good as anyone,” Smith said about his teammate. “He’s definitely one of the best pitchers I’ve ever been around.”
For fellow RiverDogs, the New York Yankees’ Class A affiliate, the feeling is mutual about Smith. Both he and Gil received high praise this month from Baseball America.
The national baseball website has released its 2019 Minor League Baseball Best Tools list, highlighting star performers in various categories. Votes for the honors were cast by minor league managers.
Smith was named the best batting prospect in the South Atlantic League and the league’s most exciting player.
Gil, who was called up last month to the Yankees’ Class A-Advanced squad in Tampa, was named the best pitching prospect and the pitcher with the best fastball in the SAL.
“They’re both amazing players,” RiverDogs manager Julio Mosquera said.
Now in his second year with the RiverDogs, Mosquera had a front row view of Gil through 17 starts. The 4-5 record in Charleston doesn’t do him justice, as the right-hander posted a 2.39 ERA with 112 strikeouts in 83 innings.
And on the other side of the ball, Smith is having a huge season. He’s batting .313 with 9 homers and 61 RBIs through 107 games.
“What more can you say about him?” Mosquera pondered about his star outfielder. “His bat knows where the strike zone is, and he’s a guy who truly understands hitting. He swings at good pitches and always puts himself in a position to be successful.”
As Gil and Smith are putting together good seasons, the RiverDogs have worked themselves back into the playoff hunt with less than three weeks to go in the season. They are just two games back of Augusta and Asheville in the South Atlantic League Southern Division, and they have won 11 of 13 games in August.
“We’re all just really confident right now, and we’re having fun,” Smith said.
Mosquera added: “I think we got that fire back. It’s not how you start but how you finish. So I think we’re making a really strong push.”
Following a four-game road series against Asheville, the RiverDogs will return to Riley Park for a six-game homestand beginning Aug. 20.