Dwight Smith Jr: A Blue Jays Prospect Ready to Break Out?
Here at Jays Journal, we have profiled the 2015 Top Blue Jays Prospects. The complete list of 20 can be found HERE. #16 on our list, and a guy who could be a pleasant surprise in 2015 is 22 year old outfielder, Dwight Smith Jr. He was selected in 1st round (53rd) of the 2011 Draft.
As Ryan Mueller already stated in his profile, Smith was a 2014 Organizational All Star, a Mid-Season AND Post-Season All Star! Before the season starts, before Spring Training even starts, I am going to pick Dwight Smith Jr as a Break Out Candidate for 2015.
When Dalton Pompey appeared on an episode of Jays Nest, we asked him about team mates he’s met along his way through the many stops of the Blue Jays system last year. We were wondering who he thought had the potential to follow in his footsteps and rise through the system. He mentioned his fellow former Dunedin Blue Jays outfielder, Dwight Smith. The scouting report Pompey provided pointed to Smith’s ability to square up pitches and hit the ball hard as well as his arm being incredibly accurate.
"“He squares up everything. Doesn’t matter who’s pitching. You could throw up Aroldis Chapman and he’d be like, ‘I’m gonna hit a seed off this guy’. He can hit a curve ball. People say his arm isn’t that strong, but I’ve never seen a guy put a ball on top of a base as much as him”."
Last season, in Dunedin, Smith enjoyed a solid year at the plate.
After spending 2013 in Lansing where he stole 25 bases to go with a BB% of 10.9%, Smith went on to have an even better 2014. His .284 average is identical to the year before and his OBP is nearly as identical at .363. Despite these numbers, 2014 showed signs of improvement for Smith. In 121 games, he walked 58 times to just 69 strike outs. As well, his power numbers rose nicely. On his way to a wRC+ of 134, he went from 17 2B in 2013 to 28 last season. He also increased his HR totals from 7 to 12. Now, an increase of 5 HR in and of itself is nothing to get over the moon excited about, but the overall increase in power (8 triples in 2014) suggests that he is growing as a hitter. He is getting stronger and, as Pompey says, hitting things squarely and with more authority.
Toronto Blue Jays
His plate discipline is something that we should not overlook. To have a mere 69 K in 121 games is impressive. And 58 walks may not seem impressive, but when you consider his .363 OBP, we know that he is getting on base a lot even if the BB totals are not piling up. The total of 134 hits combined with 58 walks means that he was on base 192 times in 121 games. If he wasn’t walking, he was hitting. That shows a solid, disciplined year at the plate. It would be difficult to see him having anything else to prove in Dunedin.
In the Arizona Fall League, Smith continued to excel. He did this while being tested at a new position- second base. During the fall, he got to work with the Blue Jays new Coordinator of Instruction, Mike Mordecai. The two worked on developing his soft hands and foot work. Of course, all of this happened before the club’s future plans included newly acquired Devon Travis. So, it will be interesting to see if this experiment continues. Regardless, it shows us that the organization thinks enough of his bat that they’d try a new position that could potentially fast track him to the big league club.
What is likely to happen is that Smith will start the year in AA New Hampshire. However, if he can continue to get on base, collect his hits and steal bases, we should not be surprised if he reaches AAA by the end of the season with a potential call up in September. Given the lack of depth in the Blue Jays’ outfield right now, this may be a comforting thought.
Should that call come some time this year and we start to question whether Smith can handle big league pitchers, it is worth noting that he has crossed path with some pretty challenging pitchers and fared quiet well, considering. He homered against Cole Hamels (Hamels was on rehang assignment) back on April 6th of last season, not once but TWICE! As well, the season before, he collected a triple and a single against Johnny Cueto. Not bad at all, no?
Indeed, this could be the year that Dalton Pompey is reunited with his friend. This could be the year that Dwight Smith Jr appears in Toronto.