How will the Blue Jays handle Dwight Smith Jr.?
Dwight Smith Jr. appeared on our Jays Journal 2015 Top Prospect List at 16th, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Smith is off to another solid start this season.
Here is what Baseball America had to say about Smith,
"Smith is the son of the big league outfielder of the same name. Junior has tools and a game that resemble his father significantly. His best tool is his bat, as he owns a pure stroke that ranks among the best in the draft class. He features a prominent leg kick at the plate, yet always seems to be on time and gets his bat into the hitting zone for a long time. Smith has a bit less speed than his dad and may wind up a below-average runner when it’s all said and done, pushing him from center field to a corner. He has enough arm strength to make right field a possibility, but a move to a corner will put more pressure on his bat. He has solid power and projects to have average raw power."
Dwight teamed up with Dalton Pompey to form a very formidable outfield and top of the line-up for the Dunedin Blue Jays in 2014. Smith manned LF while Pompey manned CF. Smith batted in the leadoff and Pompey usually followed in the send spot. That all changed when Pompey started his ascent to Toronto. Dwight began to see more time in CF and more time batting clean-up.
Many thought that Smith would follow Pompey up through the system; however, Smith Jr would remain with the Dunedin Blue Jays the entire year. He finished the year winning the R. Webster Howard award, he was named to the MiLB All-Star Team, the Mid-Season All-Star team, and the Post-Season All-Star team, while hitting a solid .284/.363/.453 slash and 12 home runs, 28 doubles and 8 triples.
He his .330 in April and .252 in May, before hitting rock bottom with a .229 June. He bounced back in July by hitting .356 before coming back down to earth with a .263 August.
Now with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, Smith is hitting .302/.355/.450 with 3 long balls and 15 RBI in the first 31 games. So far in 2015, Smith has hit .321 in April, .275 in May and is showing an ability to hit LHP (.333) and RHP (.286).
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In recent years the 22 years-old native of Georgia, has gotten stronger. This extra strength resulted in more extra base power and a few more balls leaving the year. Dwight went from 17 doubles in 2013 up to 28 in 2014 and he’s already hit 8 doubles in 2015. If we play with some numbers, and do some quick projections, we can expect him to hit 32 doubles this year and equal his home run output from last year. This despite getting his first taste of Double-A ball.
So how will the Jays handle Dwight Smith Jr. in 2015?
Will they handle him the same way as last year, leaving him at the same level all season?
Will they be more aggressive with his development?
Many Blue Jay fans would pick the later, and I’d be one of them. Not because of his batting average. Not because of his stellar play in the field. Not because of his leadership. Yes all those things are important. Just looking at Smith’s progression at the plate with his pitch recognition, ability to draw a walk, and ability to limit the strike outs. He’s progressed at every level, with this year at Double-A being no different.
2012 Bluefield- 6.4 BB% and 12.7 K%
2012 Vancouver- 8.5 BB% and 15.5 K%
2013 Lansing- 10.9 BB% and 17.1 K%
2014 Dunedin- 10.9 BB% and 12.9 K%
2015 New Hampshire- 7.8 BB% and 10.6 K%
If Smith is continues to put these numbers up when the calendar turns from May to June, then he NEEDS to receive a promotion to Buffalo and be reunited with his buddy Dalton Pompey. Playing LF, a position many feel requires a power bat, it is important that Smith does get himself out, it is important that Smith is able to get on base and he’s done that over his professional career.
The Blue Jays have entrusted Kevin Pillar and Michael Saunders (when healthy) with manning LF. Smith may not have their speed or their abilities in the field. That’s not to say Smith won’t be able to hold his own. Dwight will have a better OBP and OPS than Pillar and Saunders, while providing solid play in LF. I’m not suggesting that Dwight Smith Jr get called up to Toronto tomorrow of even this August, well not until September, but I am suggesting that he shouldn’t be left at Double-A all year. Give Smith a chance to show what he can do and allow him to enter the outfield conversation for next year and the year after that.
MLB.com 2015 Dwight Smith Jr. preview video
Dwight Smith’s Swing Mechanics
Dwight Smith Jr. joined us on Jays Nest, the Jays Journal podcast, this spring for some light-hearted conversation (listen here).