Before 2009: Smith was picked in the 39th round of the 2006 draft by the New York Yankees. I’m not even sure there are bonuses given at that stage. In any event, the 26-year-old has given the organization a nice return on their selection. Assigned to Short Season-A Staten Island in 2006, Smith hit .277 with two home runs and 21 RBI in his first 43 professional games, primarily playing first base.
Things got even better in 2007, as Smith posted a career-best OPS of .856 while with Low-A Charleston. All in all, he hit .297 with a career high eight home runs and 52 RBI in 83 games, and started to put his name on the map for Yankees fans who, after all, didn’t know too much about him given his non-descript name and draft position.
Smith advanced another level in 2008, spending the year in High-A Tampa. He hit well again, posting a .290 batting average with five home runs and 62 RBI in a career high 124 games, stealing a career best seven bases as well.
2009: Smith stayed on his path of moving up a level a season last year, starting his 2009 campaign in Double-A Trenton. While he ultimately didn’t play that poorly, he didn’t excel as he had in previous years, and was was sent back down to Tampa in mid-June after the emergence of Jorge Vazquez, despite hitting .247 in 48 Double-A games.
Smith responded well to the move, hitting .317 in 63 games with Tampa, and earning another look with Trenton in 2010.
After 2009: Smith is one of the more overlooked position players in the organization, but age is not working in his favor…it’s similar to what happened to Seth Fortenberry, but Smith played well when he got sent down, Fortenberry did not.
So Smith has another chance this season, and will most likely be Trenton’s first baseman for some stretch of time in 2010. If he can show that his two month stay last year was a bit of an aberration from his usual strong hitting, he could see his first time at Triple-A this season.
Perhaps the better comparison is Chris Malec…Smith is actually a .289 career hitter, but both he and Malec never seemed to be discussed as some of the better bats in the organization. Now, Malec’s out. What will Smith’s fate be?
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com