2013 Top Prospects #19: Dwight Smith Jr.
By Kyle Matte
My apologizes for the lack of articles over the last two weeks, as I was under the weather for a few days and was then on vacation in Nova Scotia for the holidays with no computer and limited internet access. Hopefully I can get things back on track now that I’m home and get 2-3 prospect articles out per week as originally expected.
Since I wrote my first draft of the top Blue Jays prospects almost two months ago, the organization has traded six players who originally ranked within my top 30. Thankfully, the Miami trade occurred prior to the start of my player by player release, so I had time to make adjustments and maintain a well-structured list. Unfortunately – at least for my writing – the R.A. Dickey trade was consummated in the middle of my list, and included three players who had (or would have) placed with Wuilmer Becerra (#30), Noah Syndergaard (#2), and of course Travis d’Arnaud (#1) heading out of town.
As they’re no longer members of the organization, I won’t be writing a report on Syndergaard or d’Arnaud. Instead, all prospects that have yet to come have been bumped up two slots (so instead of being 21st, this report is on the #19 prospect in the system), and the former #3 prospect will be written up as our top guy. To make up for the loss, at the conclusion of the rankings I’ll throw out a couple extra reports on players who had originally just missed the cut, but would rank at the back end with the new, slightly shallower talent pool.
Dwight Smith Jr. heading to the batting cage during minor league spring training, 2012 (Image via MLBProspectPortal.com)
Name: Dwight Smith Jr.
Date of Birth: 10/26/1992 (20)
Acquired: Selected in the Supplemental 1st round of the 2011 draft ($800,000 USD)
High School: McIntosh High School (Peachtree City, GA)
College: Had commitment to Georgia Tech
Height/Weight: 5’11”/185 lbs
Awards and Accomplishments:
- Unranked on 2012 Top 30 prospects list
- 2011 Rawlings 1st Team All-American
- Southeast All Region 1st Team
2012 Statistics and Analysis
222 AB, .212/.279/.315 (.594 OPS), 9 2B, 1 3B, 4 HR, 29 RBI, 1 SB, 17/33 BB/K
After signing late and missing out on any possible game action in 2011, Smith made his professional debut in 2012 with the short season affiliate in Bluefield. He didn’t play particularly well – especially for a player with his pedigree – but he at least kept his line respectable at .226/.289/.340 in 41 games. The front office made a clear effort to get some of the Bluefield kids up to Vancouver late in the season, regardless of their performance, and Smith was one of the players that received the promotion. He proved anything but ready, as in 18 games with the Low-A affiliate he managed just a .175/.254/.254 slash line. The biggest issue is clearly left handed pitching. In 57 at-bats against southpaws between the two levels, Smith amassed just 9 hits (including one double and one triple) and two walks, for a miserable .158/.186/.211 line. That isn’t to say he was crushing right handed pitchers, but his overall numbers are vastly superior.
Video (via MLBProspectPortal.com)
Smith looks like a baseball player in the box, as he’s very balanced with an open stance to the pitcher. He has a pure stroke that lacks any unnecessary movement or hitches. Smith has excellent plate coverage, as his swing path is efficient and he keeps the bat in the zone for a long time. He has a very patient approach, showing an ability to wait out breaking balls while keeping his front shoulder closed. The swing is defined by a dramatic leg kick as the pitch approaches the plate, something he learned from his father, though he’s been working on throttling it down a bit since entering professional baseball.
Unlike most outfielders in the Blue Jays system, physicality and athleticism are not Smith’s strongest traits. He’s extremely average in that regard, as none of his physical tools project to be above average or plus. Smith’s raw speed is average on his best days, and he could lose a step as he matures into his mid-twenties. He currently is and should remain an excellent base runner, however, as he reads pitchers and balls in the gap extremely well and takes the extra base when it is available to him. The lack of speed may catch up to him in centerfield, as even a good first step and route to the ball can’t always make up for iffy range. Smith’s arm strength is average, but he has a quick release and impressive accuracy so a move to right field wouldn’t be out of the question should it become necessary. There have also been rumblings of Smith taking reps at second base, which would be an intriguing twist in his development. His defensive actions are very sound, so he should be a solid-average defender wherever he plays.
The power tool is yet another trait with just an average ceiling. Standing 5-foot-11 at 20 years old, it’s doubtful we have a lot of physical projection to work with. However, Smith should develop into a player capable of hitting 30 or more doubles with 12-15 home runs, which would be more than sufficient in centerfield or at second base. Smith’s greatest strength is his bat, which makes the debut all that much more disappointing. He has good bat speed with a smooth stroke. Smith is a mature and patient hitter, and has consistently shown the ability to use the opposite field if the pitch dictates doing so. As mentioned above he’s struggled with lefties early in his career, but has the capability of being a plus hitter down the road.
The perfect world projection for Dwight Smith Jr. would be an everyday centerfielder; second division starter.
2013 Outlook, Risk, and ETA
It will be interesting to see how things unfold this spring, as the Blue Jays have a logjam of outfield prospects ready to make the transition to full season ball. Unfortunately, the Lansing squad only has three starting outfield spots, so a number of qualified players are going to find themselves waiting in extending spring training come April. Anything can change, but three months back from April 1st, it looks like Smith is going to be one of the prospects on the outside looking in. A Vancouver assignment would be the most logical, and 2013 will be a crucial year for Smith. As a 20 year old with good bat skills in the Northwest League, he’ll be expected to tear things up and force his way onto the Lansing roster in August. Anything less will push Smith over the edge into the realm of the non-prospects. He’s a high risk prospect, and while Smith could theoretically move quickly if his bat shows up, I wouldn’t expect him to see Toronto before the end of 2016, or, more likely, partway through 2017.