The minor league season has come to an end for all of the teams in the Blue Jays minor league system except the Lansing Lugnuts, who head in to play on Sunday one win away from heading to the championship series. This is a good time to check in on how some of the prospects in the system did in 2015. It was a season that saw a lot of turn over in the franchise as many were sent elsewhere to bring in big league talent. But, there were plenty of guys to follow. Let’s take a look at a friend of the Jays’ Nest Podcast, Dwight Smith Jr.
2014 was a good season for the then 21 year old. He was part of a very successful Dunedin Blue Jays team. It seemed like every morning the boxscore would show another great performance from that lineup and Smith was right there in the middle of things. He and Dalton Pompey combined to lead the offense. In 121 games, he collected 134 hits including 28 doubles and 12 home runs. His line of .284/.363/.453 included 58 walks to just 69 K. It was a great season that saw him steal 15 bases after swiping 25 in 2013. It was certainly encouraging.
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While Pompey made his accent to the big league club to start 2015, Smith was promoted to AA New Hampshire. I had really hoped he’d have a repeat season and perhaps make a leap to AAA this season. That didn’t happen. Not that he had a terrible season. Not at all. He played 117 games for the FisherCats and collected 122 hits including 26 doubles and 7 home runs.
His HR total was lower, but the power was still there considering he almost had the same number as last season in 5 fewer games. Yet, according to BaseballCube.com, his ISO sat at .111. That’s nearly a 50 pt drop from 2014. We asked Bob Lipman, the voice of the FisherCats, about Smith a while back and he said that he is hitting pretty much up the middle from LCF to RCF. There is a short porch in right field at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium that he was not taking advantage of as a left handed hitter. His patience was a little off this year as he walked 47 times, bringing his OBP down 30 pts to .335, which is still pretty good. But, his K/BB rate jumped nearly 20 pts to 1.36.
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What was a little surprising was the lower stolen base numbers. They dropped each of the last two seasons. The immediate thought was that he was hurt. But, other than some games missed from July 20 to August 2nd, there doesn’t seem to be any information about an actual injury. But, to go from 25 stolen bases in 2013 to 4 in 2015 is quite a drop off.
Smith is a guy who could still grow into a big leaguer. He has an average arm, but is good in the outfield. There was an experiment afoot to try him at second base. That is likely not the long term plan for him, though. As a high draft pick, Smith still has room to grow. He was selected 53rd overall in 2011 as a compensation pick. He’s just 22 years old. There will be lost of room for him to work on his game. He could even start next season in AA or they could test him in AAA to start things off. There is certainly opportunity to get some playing time in Buffalo.
Dwight Smith Jr was named to the EAS Eastern Division’s All Star team this season. It seems that every level he goes through sees him spending the year developing to mixed results. 2015 was not an outstanding season for him. But, he certainly has the potential to use it as a spring board for moving upward in the Blue Jays organization.