Jays From the Couch continues our 2016 Toronto Blue Jays Top 15 Prospects list with a player who is progressing through the system steadily by getting on base.
Originally selected as a compensation pick in the 2011 draft, Dwight Smith Jr is steadily progressing through the Blue Jays system, taking each level one year at a time. He’s relied on good on base skills and consistency to reach AA New Hampshire in 2015.
Dwight Smith Jr
DOB: Oct 26, 1992
Bats: L Throws: R
There was a time (2014 in the Arizona Fall League) when whispers circulated that Dwight was being tested at second base. But, with the upper levels of the organization seeming to have more options than as was the case then, he has settled back into his outfield comfort zone. In 2015, he slashed .265/.335/.376 in his first full season in AA. He has continued to show an ability to get on base with nice strike out to walk numbers. Predominantly playing in left field, Dwight also saw time in center and as a DH.
After working together with Dalton Pompey to set the Florida State League on fire in 2014 and appearing in the AFL that same year, the organization rewarded him with another step toward the big leagues. He spent the entire 2015 season in AA to continue his progress. As a 22 year old, he was playing 2 years younger than the competition, so we should not be discouraged by what may seem like slow progress. Taking an organization one level per year is not a sign of negative development.
Instead, we should be encouraged by his continued ability to draw walks and his relatively consistent bat. He walked 52 times last season, or at a rate of 10.9%. For comparison (albeit loose) Josh Donaldson walked at a rate of 10.3% in 2015. In 117 games, Smith Jr also collected 122 hits. He also managed to show some power with 7 HR and 26 doubles and an ISO of .104. After stealing 25 bases for the Lugnuts in 2013, Dwight managed just 4 last year.
While he got off to a hot start in April of last season, he also finished strong. He struggled a bit in June hitting just .231, but his OBP only dipped to .293. It was the only month that saw him go below a .300 OBP. He may have been hit with some bad luck in 2015 as his BABIP was just 0.294, the lowest of his career.
But, when he did make contact at the plate, you can see (image via MLBFarm.com) that he tried to use the whole field:
This combined with some pop will serve him well as he looks ahead to his future. He’ll need to continue to develop the power aspect of his game, though. He possesses a high leg kick that could interfere with the timing necessary to square up certain pitches, but does allow him to generate some pop as evidenced in the clip below from Moore Baseball:
The second video (from MLB Prospect Portal) is a better demonstration of the power that his mechanics generate:
Outlook for 2016:
John Manuel of Baseball America sums it up:
His value has to come from his bat. He runs and defends fine, but those things don’t separate him. He’s not Dalton Pompey, he’s got to hit to have a big league shot. He was left off the 40-man, sailed through the Rule 5 and has to hit his way back into Toronto’s plans. Unlike (Andy) Burns, he lacks defensive versatility. He’s a real longshot right now.
As much as I like Dwight Smith Jr and his ability to get on base, it is not like he’s leaps and bounds ahead of where he should be. He’s a talented hitter who will have to step up his game if he is going to find himself in Toronto any time soon. The good news is that a solid season would go a long way to accomplishing this. His speed and his defense are not going to be enough to make up for an average bat. So, he’ll need to have a strong 2016.
Look for him to start in AA again with an outside shot at making the AAA roster. As of right now, the Bisons only list Melky Mesa on their roster as an outfielder, but with Junior Lake, Ezequiel Carrera and others, there may not be much room for the organization to test Dwight in AAA.
*Featured Image Credit: Joel Dinda under CC BY-SA 2.0
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Shaun Doyle is a long time Blue Jays fan and writer! He decided to put those things together and create Jays From the Couch. Shaun is the host of Jays From the Couch Radio, which is highly ranked in iTunes, and he has appeared on TV and radio spots.