School: University of Virginia; Class: Junior
Position: RHP; B/T: L/L
Height: 6-2; Weight: 210
Previously Drafted: Colorado Rockies, 32nd round, 2014
Background: Just the latest bopper to come out of the University of Virginia, Smith’s following in the footsteps of Matt Thaiss, Mike Papi, and Derek Fisher as a saber-friendly (potential) first round selection. Smith, a well-built first baseman from Jupiter, Florida, is quickly closing in on a rock-solid, upward-pointing collegiate career.
After hitting an impressive .307/.373/.467 with 14 doubles, four triples, and seven homeruns for the Cavaliers during his freshman season in 2015, the 6-foot-2, 210-pound slugger raised the bar during a successful follow-up campaign: in 60 games for the perennial collegiate powerhouse, Smith slugged .329/.410/.513 with 16 doubles, one triple, and eight dingers. Perhaps the best aspect of his season: he posted a 23-to-36 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 274 trips to the plate.
Smith continued to rake during the summer with the Harwich Mariners in the Cape Cod League as well, batting .318/.394/.444 with seven doubles and four homeruns, the third highest total in the league.
This season he has continued to elevate his offensive game: through his first 50 games, spanning 231 plate appearances, the former late round pick of the Rockies has set career highs in every triple-slash category (.342/.424/.560) as well as homeruns (10). He’s also mixed in 10 doubles and one three-bagger too.
Again, there’s more…
Smith is sporting an absurd 8-to-31 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Projection: At the time of this writing, to the best of my knowledge – and according to research via the database I’ve compiled – no Division I hitter since 2011 has posted a strikeout rate below 3.5% and a walk rate north of 13%. But let’s take it one step further. Consider this:
- Since 2011, just four hitters – at any level of collegiate baseball – have posted a walk-to-strikeout ratio of at least 3.80 and slug 10 homeruns in a season: Bruce Maxwell, a second round pick of the Oakland A’s in 2012, Joey Wendle (a sixth round pick by the Indians in 2012), Garrett Benge, and Jeff Smith.
- The most impressive part: Maxwell was a DIII player; Wendle went to a DII school, and Benge and Smith were both NAIA prospects.
So the fact that Maxwell and Wendle were selected early in the draft with similar plate discipline and power numbers, despite facing off against inferior competition, should be enough evidence to suggest that Smith eventually finds his way into the first round. Virginia’s home field, as well as their tough schedule, play into Smith’s favor as well.
With that being said, Smith’s ceiling is fairly low as he’s never really flashed above-average or better power. The go-to-comparison for smooth swinging first baseman with limited homer-potential is usually Eric Hosmer or James Loney. At his peak, he looks like a .290/.370/.410-type first baseman. Expect him to go somewhere between pick 15 through the end of the first round. Potential landing spots include: Houston Astros, Toronto Blue Jays, Chicago Cubs, and Oakland A’s.
Ceiling: 2.5- to 3.0-win player
Floor: 1.5-win player
Grade: First Round