2014 Toronto Blue Jays Top Prospects: #19 Dwight Smith Jr.
The Top 30 Prospects list continues and next up is one of my personal favourite players from the Toronto Blue Jays organization. His father was runner-up for National League Rookie of the Year in 1989 and according to some scouts Dwight Smith Jr. has the potential to be even better than his old man. Unlike many prospects he doesn’t scream physical projectability but is far from raw and is what I like to refer to simply as “a baseball player”.
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 (21)
Acquired: Supplemental first round draft pick in 2011 draft ($800,000 USD)
High School: Mcintosh HS (Peachtree City, GA)
College: None (Had commitment to Georgia Tech)
Height/Weight: 5’11″/185 lbs
Awards and Accomplishments:
- Ranked 19th on 2013 Jays Journal Top Prospects
- Recipient of Blue Jays 2013 R. Howard Webster Award (Low-A MVP)
- Blue Jays From Away Player of the Game Champion for Lansing Lugnuts
- 2011 High School First Team Rawlings All-American
Stats and Analysis:
Smith was a late signing in 2011 and had a rather pedestrian first year of professional baseball playing with short-season Bluefield and Vancouver. He moved up to Lansing in 2013 and as a 20-year-old was excellent in the Low-A Midwest League. His consistency at the plate was what impressed me most as most nights he was more than solid. He racked up 120 hits and walked another 52 times in 109 games and kept his OBP north of .350 in every full month of the season.
He was mostly a singles hitter as only 22.5% of his base hits were for extra bases. He showed decent pop with seven home runs to go along with 17 doubles and three triples but ideally with such a high OBP he would have produced a slightly higher OPS than .753. He’s quick (and smart) on the base paths and had 25 stolen bases in 30 attempts and grounded into only four double plays.
Smith started fairly strong and continued to get even better as the season progressed. In 62 games after the Midwest League All-Star Game, he batted .300/.386/.424, including five of his seven home runs. For the season, he handled right-handed pitching well and had an .812 OPS versus righties but struggled against lefties with a .555 OPS.
Video Credit: MLB Prospect Portal
Smith addresses with an open stance, square shoulders and features a unique leg kick while loading. He has a tendency to waggle the bat a bit during games but his timing is impeccable and it seems to work in unison with his leg kick. He doesn’t sell out at all and keep his right shoulder closed for as long as possible to stay on breaking pitches, while a quick bat and smooth hip rotation allow him to handle hard stuff inside. He has a line drive swing and very good plate coverage. He’s held in high regard for his general approach at the plate, which is considered mature beyond his years.
One of the reasons why I’m so high on Smith is because of his hit tool. After struggling his first season, he excelled in Lansing and his patient approach paid off with a high batting average and on-base percentage. He was partially aided by a .337 BABIP that could be destined for a bit of regression but overall made good contact with a respectable 17.1% strikeout rate. He isn’t the biggest of players but has very strong wrists and has the ability to drive the ball to all fields. His stroke is smooth and other than quieting down his approach a bit he likely won’t need to make many adjustments as he moves up the levels.
I would probably rate Smith’s power as currently fringe-average but as a 21-year-old, going on the strength of his bat, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s able to produce more extra base hits and home runs going forward. He doesn’t possess a raw power profile but his ability to go the other way at times with ease makes me think there could be a bit more pop in the reserve tank.
The Lugnuts slotted Smith in left field more most of the year while occasionally taking reps at center. He’s not expected to have the range to be an every day center fielder and is a bit less vulnerable defensively as a corner outfielder. His arm strength is average but is known to be very accurate. Scouts profiled him as a left fielder at the MLB level coming out of high school and there were also rumblings that the Blue Jays might try him as a second baseman last fall, which appears to have never materialized.
Smith has fringe-average to average speed but is a smart baserunner, which helps maximize his effectiveness on the base paths. He has good instincts and is quick out of the batter’s box but I was a little disappointed he wasn’t able to turn more singles into doubles this season with Lansing.
Risk, Outlook and ETA
Smith has a top-notch baseball pedigree and should be moved up to Dunedin to play in the much tougher Class A-Advanced Florida State League in 2014. The concern is that his lack of power doesn’t profile great as a corner outfielder. He’s not expected to be an average defensive MLB-level center fielder going forward and I think his light-hitting 2012 was the reason for the near experiment at second base. However there’s always a spot on your major league roster for a guy who can hit and get on base.
This does increase his risk factor since he doesn’t have the luxury of making up for any offensive deficiencies with above average defensive from a premium position. However I still think his bat could play as an everyday left fielder based on his ability to add value by hitting for average, taking walks and putting the ball in play. He’ll likely never hit 20 home runs, which is probably the baseline for an All-Star corner outfielder, but if he can hit enough doubles and get on base at a high clip he still adds positive value to your lineup and should be consistent on a night in and night out basis.
I’ll be interested to see if Smith continues to impress with Dunedin in 2014 and will need to prove himself once again against more advanced pitching in a tougher hitter’s league. If he continues making progress as he did last season, it wouldn’t be shocking if he made a late 2016 arrival but 2017 is probably a bit more realistic.