Post-Hype Analysis: Seth Smith, OF, Colorado Rockies
Per reader request, here is a look at Colorado Rockies outfielder Seth Smith, how he developed as a prospect, and his current status.
Seth Smith was drafted by the Rockies in the second round in 2004, from the University of Mississippi. A fine overall athlete, he was backup quarterback to Eli Manning, and scouts felt that his dual-sport status had hampered his baseball development. He hit just .284/.364/.422 his junior year, though his tools (good throwing arm, above average speed, power potential) were still strong enough to get him drafted in the second round. The Rockies sent him to Casper in the Pioneer League, where he hit a robust .369/.427/.601 in 56 games. I gave him a Grade B in the 2005 book.
Moved up to High-A Modesto in 2005, Smith hit .300/.353/.458 with 45 doubles, nine homers, 44 walks, and 115 strikeouts in 533 at-bats. This looked good on the surface, but his OPS was actually just league-average for the California League that year, he had problems with plate discipline, scouts weren't sure he would fully tap into his power, and said he needed to work harder on his defense. I gave him a Grade C+ in the 2006 book, but did note that he had "more untapped potential than most college players."
Double-A Tulsa in 2006 was more impressive: .294/.361/.483, 46 doubles, 15 homers, 51 walks, and 74 strikeouts in 524 at-bats. He got his swing under control, did a better job with the zone, improved his defense, and generally looked a lot more like a baseball player than a raw athlete. He'd slowed down enough that he was no longer a basestealing threat, but overall I was impressed when I saw him in person, and I gave him a Grade B in the 2007 book. Scouts reported a better work ethic, and he also responded well to lasik surgery that improved his vision.
Promoted to Triple-A Colorado Springs for 2007, Smith hit .317/.381/.528 with 17 homers, 39 walks, and 73 strikeouts in 451 at-bats. He got eight at-bats for the Rockies late in the year, picking up five hits. His AAA numbers were solid but not spectacular for the level, and many scouts saw him as a "tweener": not having quite enough home run power to play an everyday corner in the majors, but not running well enough to play center field. I lowered his rating slightly to a Grade B-, writing that I still liked him a lot but that he was now 25 years old.
Smith split 2008 between AAA (.323/.426/.524 in 68 games) and the Rockies (.259/.350/.435 in 67 games). There were trade rumors involving him but the Rockies held on. He was still under 130 at-bats, so I put him in the 2009 book, giving him a Grade C due to age, but the review was otherwise positive. I wrote that Smith didn't do anything spectacularly, but that he did "a lot of things well," projecting him as a .250-.270 hitter in the majors with some power, decent on-base ability, and solid corner defense.
That's pretty much how things have turned out. He hit .293/.378/.510, WAR 2.9 in 2009 as a platoon bat, then a less impressive .246/.314/.469, 1.7 WAR last year. He's off to a fine start so far in '11, at .304/.367/.506. Overall, in 1006 major league plate appearances, Smith has hit .274/.350/.488, OPS+110, WAR 5.3.
Colorado has helped him a lot: he's hit .308/.384/.587 in 416 at-bats at home, but just .244/.319/.400 in 472 at-bats on the road. Even so, I still see him as a useful role player.
Most Similar Players through age 27: Leon Wagner, Chris Duncan, Brian Giles, Gates Brown, Brad Hawpe, David Murphy, Jon Nunnally, Cody Ross, Wally Westlake, and Craig Monroe.
At age 28, Smith is in the prime of his career now, and it wouldn't surprise me to see him remain hot and produce something like his current slash line over the entire 2011 season (.300+ with power). In the long run, if he spends most of his career with the Rockies, I think he'll end up with career numbers that pan out about .280/.360/.475 or so, with solid glovework at the corners. If he ends up spending a larger portion of his career in a different environment, you'd have to shave some of that off.