While there may not be games being played, prospect writers continue to look at ways to examine each club’s minor league systems. The MLB Pipeline team is no different, taking a recent look at who the best pure hitter is in each organization.
“Smith has a keen eye at the plate that helped him draw 57 walks (the ninth-highest total in US prep history) as a Texas high school senior in 2017 and lead the low Class A South Atlantic League with 74 free passes last year. The former fourth-round pick’s patience, bat speed and strength give him the ingredients to hit for average and power, as evidenced by his ranking third in the SAL in batting average (.307) and OPS (.871).”
Smith ranks 21st on the Yankees Top 30 prospect list.
While the Pipeline crew praises Smith for his bat. his production has been uneven over the three seasons since he turned pro.
A catcher, first baseman, and quarterback in high school, the Yankees moved Smith to the outfield almost immediately after drafting him in 2017 in the 4th Round. The belief was that his athleticism and arm strength made him perfect to play one of the corners. They signed him to an above-slot deal to keep him from a commitment to Arkansas.
Smith’s first season in the GCL was strong. He hit .289/.430/.422 with more walks than strikeouts.
The next year, with short-season Staten Island, was an all-around disaster. Smith struggled to a .191/.281/.316 line. He didn’t hit for power, take walks, or steal bases. Injuries were reportedly an issue throughout the season. There were rumblings that the team was not happy with his conditioning when he first reported to camp that spring.
Last season was a turnaround for the now 21-year old. Smith spent the season with Low-A Charlestown and once again looked like the hitter the Yankees drafted. He batted .307/.405/.465 on the year. Add in 32 doubles, 11 homers, and 16 stolen bases to the league-leading walk total and what the Pipeline guys are seeing starts to become clearer.
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In all likelihood, Smith would have been ticketed to start the 2020 season with High-A Tampa before everything was put on hold. Even without the potentially lost year of development, it wasn’t likely that he’d figure into the club’s MLB plans within the next year or two. The Yankees have no reason to rush him.