Remember Dwight Smith Jr.? He’s gotten off to a strong start with the Bisons and could help the Blue Jays in 2017
Drafting in baseball is the most challenging of all the major North American sports. Picks taken in the first round, even early in the first round, are not guaranteed to find success in the major leagues. Many first-round picks fizzle out in the low minors, many first-round picks develop quickly, while others develop slowly from year to year.
The ones that develop quickly make it harder on the pick that slowly develops, as fans grow impatient. While the slow developers steadily climb through the system and seem to get forgotten before seemingly coming out of nowhere.
Dwight Smith Jr, son of former big league outfielder Dwight Smith, is a Toronto draft pick from 2011 which can be categorized as a slow developer. Despite his 1st round status (actually he was taken in the 1st compensation round) was never considered to be a high ceiling prospect.
The 5-foot-11 outfielder was said to lack ‘plus tools’ which landed him the label of a future 4th outfielder. Smith’s bat was what many scouts focused on when describing his skill set. Scouts felt that he lacked the speed to stick in center field and lacked the power potential to hit enough home runs to be an effective corner outfielder in the major leagues.
Without top flight speed or elite power, Smith needed to rely on his high baseball IQ which helped him become a solid fielder and control the strike zone.
This is not to say that Smith Jr. never appeared on any Top Prospect lists because he did.
Over the past 5 seasons in the Blue Jays system, Dwight Smith Jr has used his gap power to steadily work his way through the system, putting up consistently solid numbers. While ‘consistently solid numbers’ don’t translate into Top Prospect status or even being Rule 5 protected, they have allowed Smith to slowly develop.
After back-to-back seasons batting .284 with the 2013 Lugnuts and 2014 Dunedin Blue Jays, it appeared Smith’s development had stalled. He saw his power dip during his first season with the Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats, where he batted .265. The lower batting average and the decrease in power saw Smith repeat the year with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats.
In his second season, Smith hit .265 again but showed more power. What was impressive about Smith’s 2016 season was how he battled back from batting just .145 in April.
A dozen games into his first Triple-A season, the 24-yr-old outfielder has acquitted himself very well. He’s mostly been used in right field but has seen time in center field and has batted everywhere from 2nd to 8th. Smith is batting .357 with a pair of doubles, a pair of home runs, 10 runs batted in, 5 walks, 7 strikeouts and a solid .973 OPS.
For his career, Smith owns a .257 batting in April, coupled with the fact that he’s just getting his first taste of Triple-A, makes his strong start with the Buffalo Bisons even more impressive.
If we consider the Blue Jays love for Ezequiel Carrera it shouldn’t be considered too much of a stretch that a guy like Dwight Smith Jr. to be considered an option to help Toronto in the case of an injury. Smith Jr. and Carrera have a lot of similarities. Carrera has better speed; where as Smith Jr. has more power. I’d say it’s a tie when comparing fielding ability with Carrera having more range and Smith having a better arm.
I might be getting ahead of myself here because Smith Jr. will need to his strong play to continue if he has any hope of being added to the 40-man roster. On top of this, Dwight Smith Jr. will need to over take Dalton Pompey and Darrell Ceciliani on the depth chart.
Despite all this, the 24-yr-old’s hot start with the Bisons has made people remember that he was once a 1st round pick.
*Featured Image Credit: slgckgc UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0
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