- Rating: 3.81
- 2022 stats: 75 G, 227 PA, .220/ .300/.367, 9 HR, 33 RBI, .667 OPS, 89 OPS+, 0.4 bWAR
- Date of birth: February 6, 1996 (26 years old)
- 2022 earnings: prorated league minimum
- 2023 status: On 40-man roster, Pre-Arb Eligible, 2 MiLB options remaining.
In his rookie campaign of 2021, Pavin Smith had proved to be a decent everyday bat, posting a line of .267/.328/.404 for an OPS of .732 (98 OPS+) across 145 games. He’d also shown positional flexibility, starting at all three outfield positions (even if the results in center were... mixed, to be charitable), as well as at first base. Smith had been ranked #7 in our player reviews at the end of the season, and was named the Snakepit’s Rookie of the Year. With the struggles that season of Christian Walker at 1B, Smith was one of the names most often mentioned as a potential replacement, along with Seth Beer. The retention of Walker left his status uncertain, as James wrote in his review:
The decision to tender Christian Walker muddies the waters for Smith’s future... The biggest thing Smith can do to improve his stock moving forward is to continue adding loft to his swing. His present power is still well-below average for a corner position player. With more power will come more walks, helping him regain his reputation as a high OBP player. With Smith’s erratic profile and the numerous other players all vying for time at his most likely positions, it is difficult to tell whether or not Smith will figure into the plans of the next competitive Diamondbacks team. One thing that will surely help him succeed though, would be if the organization stopped setting him up to fail by putting him in center field.
Well, at least we got our wish. His playing time was mostly in right-field (40 starts), with time also as DH (18 starts) and at first (only 8). But it was very much a season to forget, getting barely half the PAs in his sophomore campaign, Smith had received the previous year. Things did start well enough, Pavin being the first D-back to get a hit, breaking up Yu Darvish’s Opening Day no-hitter in the seventh inning. Indeed, over his first 25 games, he was hitting .274, with an .824 OPS. This drew praise from Torey Lovullo: “Pavin has been doing a great job for us, playing just about every day for us in right field. He came through our system as a very good hitter, and we’ve watched him turn into the same type of player at the big league-level.”
Smith said hw tried to simplify his approach: “He has been focused, particularly the past couple of weeks, on a simplified approach — on getting his foot down early, being on time for the fastball and adjusting if he sees something offspeed.” But it didn’t last. A slump followed, and it seemed as if Pavin went back to tinkering with his approach. Just a couple of weeks later, the word was “He has since added a small stride, a mechanical tweak borne of a sort of meshing of coaching disciplines.” That article appeared on May 25th. On July 2, Smith was optioned down to Triple-A Reno having appeared in 24 games and batted .159/.239/.281 for an OPS of just .520.
The reset produced the briefest of resurgences, Pavin getting four hits in his two games with the Aces before being hurt diving for a ball in the outfield on July 3. His glove was caught in the grass, leading to a nondisplaced wrist fracture and some ligament damage. He missed over two and a half months as a result, getting a brief rehab stint with the Aces, before getting a late call-up back to the major-league roster on September 23. Small sample size, but Smith performed decently in the last couple of weeks, going 10-for-32 with a .767 OPS, including a three-hit performance on the final day of the season, which gives him something positive to take into the winter.
But, wait! There’s more! In a slightly uncommon move for a non-Hispanic player, Smith went down to the Dominican Winter League, to play outfield and DH for the Tigres del Licey. In 16 games for them, Pavin batted .292 and had more walks (15) than strikeouts (13), for a .462 on-base percentage. There wasn’t much power - one home-run in 65 PA - but that kind of batting average and plate discipline reduce the need for the long ball.
At this point, Smith feels as if he might be the forgotten man among the plethora of left-handed hitting options the Diamondbacks have in the outfield. It’s certainly fair to say that he was hardly missed on the 2022 roster, with the rise of Alek Thomas and Jake McCarthy potentially both pushing Pavin down the depth chart. It was good to see him come back at the end of the year, and prove his health - the spell in the Dominican also works towards that end. The problem is whether he is now once again a man without a place to play. The outfield looks well-stocked, 1B remains Christian Walker’s spot to lose, and Kyle Lewis looks to have first shot at being the team’s designated hitter in 2023.
It’s not impossible that a trade to another club could be Smith’s best chance at regular playing time next year. However, it feels to me that doing so at this point would be selling low. It might be best to hold on to Smith for the winter, and ee what happens between now and Opening Day. If the team is still looking to trade him at that point (for who knows what other deals might have happened in the meantime), they can look to get some more playing-time, and perhaps improve Pavin’s stock as a bargaining chip. He’s only five years removed from being the 7th overall pick in the 2017 draft, and while he may not reach the heights that slot may indicate, I do feel there’s still potential within Smith.