Blue Jays: Kevin Smith has been red hot after sluggish first half

LAKELAND, FL- MARCH 02: A general view from the spring training home of the Toronto Blue Jays before the game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium on March 2, 2016 in Dunedin, Florida. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
LAKELAND, FL- MARCH 02: A general view from the spring training home of the Toronto Blue Jays before the game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium on March 2, 2016 in Dunedin, Florida. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) /
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Kevin Smith had a tough first half of the season, but one of the top infield prospects in the Blue Jays system has really turned things around lately.

Blue Jays No. 14 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, Kevin Smith, had an eye popping 2018 campaign where he posted a slash line of .302/.358/.528 with 25 home runs, 93 RBI’s and 29 stolen bases, but unfortunately the 23-year-old infielder took a step backwards in this year’s first half.

Heading into the season with double-A New Hampshire, Baseball America had him ranked sixth in the organization behind most of the young stars currently manning the big league infield, but in the first half he batted just .175 with seven home runs and struck out 73 times in 59 games.

Strikeouts were up from 2018 and the walks were down as some began to wonder whether his offensive game would play at the higher levels of the minors. As all good players do, Smith made adjustments over the All-Star break and has been one of the hottest hitters in the system over the past month.

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Not only does he lead Blue Jays minor leaguers with eight home runs in the past 30 days, he also boasts a slash line of .320/.365/.680 over that time. His second half play looks a lot similar to 2018 and should he continue on this pace to close out the season, he’ll likely continue moving up the ladder in the organization and join the Buffalo Bisons.

After two seasons in the minors, the scouting world was beginning to take notice of Kevin Smith and the value he was building around his name, and Ross Atkins reiterated this offseason just how high management is on the University of Maryland product.

“He’s kind of everything we’re looking for,” said Atkins last year on the Fan590 radio station, also mentioning Smith has become a “corner square” on the Jays front office bingo card.

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If Smith continues to produce and put up numbers offensively to compliment his solid defence at both positions on the left side of the infield, he could become an important trade chip as the Blue Jays have an influx of high-end infield prospects still rolling through the system.

Like Smith, the Jays No. 3 prospect Jordan Groshans and No. 8 prospect Orelvis Martinez both get reps at shortstop and third base, while their true position is shortstop. Of course, those two are a little further away from an arrival in Toronto compared to Smith, but it’s a story worth following as they continue to develop.

There’s swing and miss in the 2017 fourth-rounder’s game, but teams can handle that in 2019 as long as there’s some pop in the bat. Smith can provide that and even hit for average as shown by his 73 doubles and 49 ding dongs over 279 minor league games, also batting a cumulative .269, which could be much higher if not for his first half struggles.

Next. Montoya has a tough task managing playing time. dark

This hot stretch has been a breath of fresh air not only for Smith, but the organization as well, who were very high on him heading into the season, waiting to see if he could repeat the spectacular show he put on last year.

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