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Pavin Smith is newest addition to D-backs’ youth movement

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Arizona’s 2017 first-round pick made strides at the alternate site training site.

Minor League Baseball: Arizona Fall League-All Star Game Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

New faces have appeared in the Arizona Diamondbacks starting lineup, and Pavin Smith is another prospect who will make his big league debut.

Smith, 24, received his first MLB call up to the Diamondbacks Thursday after Jake Lamb was designated for assignment. The former No. 7 overall pick in 2017 has made key adjustments at the plate during his time at the alternate training site.

While the abbreviated 60-game regular season continues, Smith is the newest member to earn an opportunity in Arizona .

“I like the progress that I’ve made this year,” Smith said. “… I made a couple of adjustments to my swing, and it’s something I may not have been able to do during a season. So I’m grateful for this time to tinker around and experiment a little bit.”

Smith has been highly touted for his smooth left-handed swing since his college career at Virginia. While Smith’s leveled swing and advanced approach have grown in the minor leagues, he’s failed to hit for much power.

He slugged under .400 with just 11 home runs with High-A Visalia in 2018, and more offensive woes continued in 2019 with Double-A Jackson. Smith had a .250/.334/.381 slash line three months into Double-A last season, but a key plate adjustment paid dividends down the stretch.

Smith stayed more on his back foot, getting his right foot down earlier to get the ball in the air. His adjustment translated to a .350/.419/.589 slash line in the final two months of 2019, including a career-high 12 home runs and 29 doubles.

“It’s not really a swing thought of hitting the ball in the air,” he said. “It was just a little mechanical adjustment that took care of it.”

Over three seasons in the minor leagues, Smith has endured through his faire share of obstacles. He’s suffered hitless streaks at the plate and slow starts to a season. Through hard work and dedication, Smith has let his mental hurdles fuel a bright future.

“I definitely had my struggles,” he said. “My agent told me it’s better to have your struggles in the minor leagues and figure it out and go from there. I had some learning experience, dealing with struggle and adversity. I’ve been able to take that and—if I do come across a slump— know I can get out of it.”

Defensively, Smith said he’s played a good amount of outfield and first base at the alternate training site. He started 78 games at first base, 27 in right field and 11 in left field in Double-A last season.

Smith’s 6-foot-2, 210-pound frame can translate to first base or either corner outfield spot in Arizona. The left-handed hitting prospect is comfortable at either position.

“I was switching off between first (base) and outfield,” he said. “... We had more outfielders there, but I still got my reps and the better feel I got for it.”

The Diamondbacks have infused some of their young farm talent into the lineup with the likes of Daulton Varsho, Wyatt Mathisen, Andy Young and Josh Rojas. Smith is the newest prospect added to that bunch, and he’s anxious to make the most of his opportunity.

“I’m just gonna go out there and be myself,” he said. “Wherever they put me, I’ll try to help the team win.”