The Blue Jays’ 2017’s 4th-Round Draft Pick Has Already Made High-A and Has Shown No Signs of Slowing Down
Over the past three drafts, the Blue Jays have gone hard after middle infield depth, taking both high-ceiling high school studs like Bo Bichette and seasoned college players, such as Logan Warmoth. One strategy you’ll always hear during the draft is “take the best player on the board,” especially in baseball, when anyone you draft is usually at least three years away from their MLB debut.
One way to hit on this strategy is to draft up the middle – selecting catchers, shortstops and center fielders, usually the most athletic players on their team. The Blue Jays did that again this year, drafting Jordan Groshans (SS) early in the first, Chris Bec (C) and Addison Barger (SS) within their own top 10.
In 2017, the Blue Jay went especially hard on shortstops and catchers, highlighted by previously mentioned first-rounder Logan Warmoth. Warmoth has been slow to bust out at the professional level, but the 4th round pick in 2017 – University of Maryland SS Kevin Smith – hit so well early on in Lansing that he’s already earned an early-season promotion to High-A Dunedin.
Smith in the Field
|2018||21||2 Teams||2 Lgs||A-A+||3B||22||19||175.0||59||22||33||4||3||.932||2.83||2.50|
|2018||21||2 Teams||2 Lgs||A-A+||SS||33||33||283.0||164||46||112||6||22||.963||5.02||4.79|
After his promotion to High-A Dunedin, Smith has spent most of his time at shortstop as fellow 2017 draftee, Logan Warmoth, recovers from injury (retroactive to 5/27). He’s started nine of his ten games there and one at third base – and he seems yet to be challenged there. At 1.5 years below average age for the Florida State League, Smith has slashed .349/.420/.512 in 10 games.
For guy who’s biggest strength on draft day 2017 was his glove, Smith has bloomed into a well-rounded infielder in the Blue Jays minors. While maintaining solid defense this spring after posting a .954 Fld% at shortstop in 2017, he’s started to show off his legs as well. In 2017 Smith was a perfect 9-for-9 in stolen bases, and so far in 2018, he’s 12-for-14.
The Florida State League won’t be the biggest challenge in Kevin Smith’s progression through the Blue Jays system, and after only 10 games there, he still has plenty of time for pitchers to adjust to his hot bat, and for his own counter-adjustment. He still strikes out too much (24.1%), but balances that with a high batting average (helped out by a .397 BABIP with Lansing) and an unflattering, but improving 8.0% walk rate.
While he’s not making the Eastern League repent their sins like a certain 19-year old Dominican third base prospect, Smith has faced challenges at each level and shown improvement throughout the minors. On draft day 2017, he garnered very little attention with the ascension of Bo Bichette and the high draft slot of Logan Warmoth, but that certainly hasn’t deterred the ‘Terp from charging up the shortstop depth chart.
It’ll be interesting to see what becomes of the shortstop situation in Dunedin once Logan Warmoth is ready to return. It’s still early for Smith the A+ player, but he’s yet to show much weakness in the league, and Bichette looms heavily for the Eastern League New Hampshire Fisher Cats. In Triple-A, Lourdes Gurriel will be looking for a promotion, should he continue his strong play.
Needless to say, the newfound shortstop depth in the Blue Jays minor leagues is a good problem to have.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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Roy’s earliest memories all involve baseball from the early 90’s and the Blue Jays dream teams. He became a Blue Jays fan while watching Carlos Delgado and Shawn Green evolve in Syracuse, NY at the run-down confines of MacArthur Stadium, nestled between highway and swamp. A lifelong baseball player, Roy still plays (P, C, 2B, 3B) in the 25+ Syracuse MSBL for the Liverpool Mets. He watches almost all games with his best buddy Sebastian, a five year old Pug, who could care less.