Jays From the Couch breaks into the Top 10 of our 2019 Blue Jays Top Prospects with #8- Kevin Smith
It’s that time of year again! We’re counting down our Toronto Blue Jays Top Prospects for 2019. We’ve selected our Top 20 and will be profiling each one. You are bound to find many of these lists in your travels, which makes for great conversation. The basis for rankings varies even more than the number of lists you’ll find. Some prefer to look at how close to “big league ready” a prospect is, while others look at “stuff” or “tools”. To construct our list, we have scoured over scouting reports, numbers and a lot more to finalize our 2019 Top Prospects list. Feel free to weigh in on each selection in the comment section! It’s part of the fun!
The 2018 season saw Kevin Smith, selected in 4th round of the 2017 MLB Draft by the Toronto Blue Jays, forcing his way into the Blue Jays rebuild. The 22-year-old exploded out of the gates in April by batting .330/.381/.568 with 10 doubles, a triple, three home runs, and driving in 25 as a member of the Lansing Lugnuts.
A recent piece by Sportsnet’s Arden Zwelling (see here) outlines the hard work that Kevin Smith put in during the last offseason and during the season to get to #8 on Jays From the Couch’s Top Prospect List. Give it read.
In his rookie season of 2017, Smith showed he could provide the necessary power to be an impact bat in the middle of the lineup by swatting 8 home runs and 25 doubles in 61 games with the Bluefield Blue Jays. However, there were questions surrounding his big swing and approach at the plate which resulted in 70 strikeouts in 61 games (24.7 K%). Typically, players with high K% in Rookie ball struggle at higher levels as the competition exploit their aggressive approach. Fortunately, thanks to the adjustments made, Smith managed to cut his K% down to 16.2% during his time in Lansing.
Heading into the 2018 season, Smith was not considered a ‘Top Prospect’ with Logan Warmoth, Bo Bichette, and Lourdes Guriel Jr. each holding higher regards among scouts. Smith was viewed as a guy who had the skills to run into the odd home run while playing a solid a shortstop. His strong arm, good reaction, and solid range allowed the Lugnuts to play split his playing time between SS and 3B. Smith played 21 games at 3rd and 24 games at SS as a member of the Lugnuts.
Kevin Smith was promoted to Advanced-A Dunedin Blue Jays on May 28th after batting .379 with 13 doubles, 3 triples, and 4 home runs. He made his D-Jays debut on May 29th going 1-for-4 with a run scored, two base-on-balls, and two strikeouts. The University of Maryland alumni finished June with a .318 batting average, 5 doubles, a triple, and 5 home runs while striking out 33 times in 25 games. His batting average would fall back to earth with a .238 BA in July and .268 BA in August but the power numbers held with 13 HR over the final two months of the season.
As a member of the D-Jays, Smith’s numbers resembled his rookie tendencies more than the numbers he posted with Lansing. His BB% fell from 8.3 to 6.2, his K% increased from 16.2 to 23.7, and his ISO dropped from .284 to .194. For reference, he posted 5.7 BB%, 24.7K%, and .195 ISO in his rookie season. On the plus side, he managed to maintain a solid 20.7 line drive percentage and increased his HR/FB rate to an impressive 18.0%.
It is expected Smith will move up a level in 2019, beginning the season with the Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats. He will join Santiago Espinal who played 73 games at SS in 2018, 12 with NH. In Dunedin, Smith was used primarily at SS (63 games) with a few games at 3B (6 games), so it is possible that Espinal could slide over to 2B or 3B (18 games played in 2018). However, Smith’s offensive game, strong arm, and solid glove plays well at 3B. Also, after Vladimir Guerrero Jr., the upper portion of the system is very thin at the hot corner.
MLB Pipeline has the 22-yr-old from East Greenbush, NY at number 6 on their list with mostly 50 scouting grades across the board. They have an ETA for his major league debut in 2020 but since Smith isn’t Rule 5 eligible until 2020, I think his ETA will be closer to 2021 or maybe with another team in 2020. I think Smith’s high K% will be exposed in AA. However, Smith has proven to be a good student of the game and hard worker so he could make the adjustments which will help him maintain a .270 batting average with a .200 ISO.
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