Poor Pavin Smith. He’s been dropped into a very unenviable position. With the amount of upside talent available at number seven, taking the safe pick was considered by many fans to be an underwhelming choice. Not only that, but he is blocked at his best position by some guy named Paul Goldschmidt, only one of the best hitters in all of MLB.
He is not going to let that deter him though, and that’s a good thing. So, now that Pavin Smith has been selected, what should we expect?
Well, first thing is first, he can hit. He can hit very well. One of the things that drove his stock up so high on draft boards was that Smith is almost impossible to strike out, whiffing only 12 times his entire junior year at UVA. When asked about this in the press introduction, he was very proud of the fact. He attributes his success in this matter to two things, having a plan when he digs in at the plate and detesting strikeouts with a vengeance. He seems to take striking out personally. I happen to like that. I like the idea that if a pitcher gets his number that he is going to be looking for some redemption the next go-around. About that - Smith has a very smart approach at the plate and is very gifted at remembering pitchers and how they have been performing throughout the game.
What has been lacking in Smith’s game is real power. He smacked 13 home euns in his junior season. While that’s nothing to sneeze at, it represents the best margin of his amateur career by a pretty wide margin. Has he figured it all out? Is he going to tap into more poweer reserves as he gets more coaching and is playing more games? We will have to wait and see. Some on the bullish side see him as a 25-home run threat. Others see him as a 12-15-home run threat.
Three names that have been linked to Smith in terms of comps are James Loney, John Olerud, and Lyle Overbay (who was also considered by many to be Olerud 2.0). This seems like a fair assesment. That is not a bad player by any stretch of the imagination. Unfortunately for Smith, players still on the board were being compared to Benintendi, Pollock, Stanton, Sonny Gray, and Mark Prior. This is where the “disappointment” is coming from - not that anyone thinks this young man is going to be lacking in the ability to be a good player.
Finally, we come to Smith and his defensive acumen. Smith is first and foremost a first baseman. He plays the position as an above average defender with decent, but not spectacular range. He does have good hands and sound first baseman footwork, which is possibly the hardest part of the position to learn (just ask Mark Grace). First base is not the only position he plays though. As Smith pointed out, every Sunday, when Adam Haseley was starting for UVA, Smith would take to left field. Reports on his ability in left field vary. Most credit him with having a plus arm, despite having had UCL trouble a few seasons ago (hence his reason for not also being a two-way player). The big question is whether or not he has enough speed to cover large outfields. He is not blessed with speed, and he does not take the cleanest routes to the ball. If he is playing left field in the NL West, that could be problematic.
However, Smith had a few things to say about this as well. Smith clearly understands his strengths and weaknesses. He knows that he needs more work in the outfield. At the same time, he is quite aware of the “Goldschmidt situation” going on at first base in Arizona. While Smith is a confident man, he has no illusions that he is pushing GOldschmidt off of first anytime soon. He does feel his bat plays though, and that his glove could play well enough in left, that there is no reason that he and Goldschmidt could not share the field in 2019. Once again, I like this attitude. He understands he is a first baseman and expects to get plenty of reps there, but he sees himself having another path to the majors and clearly feels he can convince the organization to at least let him make his case on the field.
Here are a few other random tidbits from the introduction:
Smith had no idea at all he was going to be selected by Arizona. He was aware that the Diamondbacks had people attending UVA games, but his contact with them was minimal. Last night, he received a call from Mike Hazen and Deric Ladnier. They had some fairly basic character-determining questions for him but said very little and the call was apparently not a very long one. They gave him no indication they were going to be taking him. He was as surprised as anyone when he was seleceted seventh overall.
For my part, this is what else I took from the introduction:
Pavin Smith is a competitor. He is not going to be the sort to be giving anything away. This seems pretty apparent in his unwillingness to be a striekout victim, but it can also be heard in the way he challenges questions about his play and his future. Until someone proves him wrong, he expects to be a quick study and to be in the majors sooner rather than later.
If Smith can be an average defenser in left and an above average first baseman, then he is a player we can all get excited about seeing. Whether or not his power shows up regularly will be the key to his reaching his potential ceiling. Even if he does not translate his power in-game as well as he could, he still could end up a .280-.300 hitter that walks as often or more than he strikes out and hits 12-15 home runs. THe Diamondbacks have had a less defensively gifted one of those before in Conor Jackson (pre-Valley Fever).
If Smith is able to live up to his own expectations, he should be in the bigs by mid or late 2019, and we should be seeing plenty of good things about him in our minor league recaps starting either late this year or the beginning of next year.