Coming off his first full season in pro ball, Smith faces questions about his ability to get to prototypical 1B power. Post-draft in 2017, he took his patient approach to short-season and slashed well (.318/.401/.415) but with limited power (.097 ISO). In Advanced A Visalia this year, Smith showed a bit more pop hitting 11 bombs, but the trade off in the hit-tool is enough to draw concerns for a bat-first prospect (.255/.343/.392). I saw Smith for four games in the AFL, a follow-up to a three-game glance in April.
In April, I was encouraged to see Smith’s more aggressive early count approach to seek out power, even though the results were spotty. A polished hitter, the hope was that he would quickly adapt, but in this fall look, Smith’s aggression was even greater, creating more issues with swing/miss than expected for a hitter of his caliber. He’s clearly trying to tap more of his 55-grade raw, but instead of keying on early count FBs he can drive, Smith was trying to hit everything–causing whiffs and weak contact when he tried to pull the ball. He was at his best deep in counts, shortening up with more control of the zone to hit liners to the left half of the field. Smith’s issue is that he doesn’t have great bat speed, making it hard to get around and pull fastballs. He has to commit early to catch up to good velocity, causing him to get out in front of off-speed. There’s hitting instincts and barrel-feel to work with, but his current stroke might not ever be able to produce both average and power.
After just wrapping his first full season of pro ball, Smith still has time to put it all together. Across my looks, his quest for power has hurt the approach and hit tool more than hoped. There’s still time to get to more traditional power, so the best-case ceiling remains an everyday player at 1B. Given the defensive profile, it’s tough to see Smith fitting that role if he can’t develop more offensive impact.