Continuing our series of profiles for the 2017 MLB Draft, we turn our attention this afternoon to Pavin Smith, first baseman from the University of Virginia. Smith was seen as a potential first round pick before the start of the college season and has certainly consolidated his standing with an excellent spring, putting him in contention for the Top 10. Let’s take a look.
Pavin Smith is from Jupiter, Florida, where he was known to scouts as a first baseman, outfielder, and left-handed pitcher. He would have been drafted in an early round but his strong commitment to the University of Virginia made him unsignable.
The Colorado Rockies called his name in the 32nd round of the 2014 draft but as expected he attended college instead, seizing a regular job as a freshman and hitting .307/.376/.467 in 270 at-bats. His follow-up sophomore campaign saw a boost in power, resulting in a .329/.410/.513 line in 228 at-bats. He then ran up a .318/.394/.444 mark in 151 at-bats for the Harwich Mariners in the Cape Cod League, showing his power with the wooden bat.
His junior year has been remarkable so far: .349/.423/.604. He’s already set a career high with 10 homers through April 17th, while showing exceptional plate management with 21 walks but only five strikeouts in 149 at-bats. He’s also thrived defenisvely, making just one error so far with a .996 fielding percentage.
Smith is a left-handed hitter and thrower, listed at 6-2, 210 pounds, born February 6th, 1996. He has exceptional feel for hitting: hand-eye coordination and knowledge of the strike zone are top-caliber. His raw power gets 60 grades but it didn’t always show up in games until last spring. He maintained the power in the Cape Cod League (always a good sign) and has taken it a step further this year, all the while improving his strike zone judgment from sharp to “can’t get the ball past him.”
Increased power production combined with a reduction in strikeouts is hard to find. His swing is mechanically sound and he should continue hitting for average and power as he moves up.
Defensively, Smith is an asset at first base, with plus mobility, field awareness, soft hands, and (as befits a former pitcher) a strong throwing arm. He lacks running speed and is not a threat to steal, although he’s a good enough athlete that some scouts think he can play left or right field.
There aren’t many. When he got to college in 2015 there were some questions about if he could turn his raw power into game power. He’s done that, and certainly against high-level of competition given the strength of the Virginia program. His performance on Cape Cod demonstrates that it isn’t a metal bat illusion. Teams picking at the very top of the draft may want a player who has more speed or who plays a premium defensive position, but overall few players offer the combination of safety and upside possessed by Smith.
Smith draws comparisons to players like John Olerud and Eric Hosmer and he won’t need long in the minors. He could go in the Top 10 and won’t get past the middle of the first round.
Video from 2080 Baseball