White Sox minor league catcher Kevan Smith faces an important season in 2017. How important will 2017 be for him?
Since he entered professional baseball in 2011, Kevan Smith has spent nearly all of his time in the minor leagues for the Chicago White Sox. However, in September of 2016, he finally broke through to the big leagues. Could this be the year he spends considerable time at the MLB level?
While Smith took his first plate appearance with the White Sox on Sept. 1 keep something in mind. He did get a call up in late April of last year, but was scratched just prior to the game with an injury. For a player that had more than 1,700 minor league at bats prior to last season, getting injured while on the White Sox lineup card must have felt as though he was living in a nightmare.
Now, with the clock ticking on Smith’s career, the same question must enter his mind that did when he had to be scratched last April. Will I ever get a legitimate opportunity to prove myself in the big leagues? For a player that only saw action in seven games, the chance to earn a spot on an opening day roster has to be in his thought process heading into Spring Training.
Just by looking at his minor league stats, he did show the ability to swing the bat, however questions remain in regards to if he can translate those skills to the major league level. Smith hit ten home runs or more on three different occasions (’12, ’13, ’14), not to mention has a career .282 batting average in 1,900 career minor league at bats.
His strikeout rate is below average, as he has fanned 347 times in his time on the farm. That is around 1 in every 5.5 at bats. This is a key reason as to why many have concerns about his ability to hit at the MLB level. Smith rarely walks, considering his career high in walks is 46 (non-intentional), which he recorded at Double A Birmingham in 2014. Combine those two factors, and you are looking at the less powerful version of Tyler Flowers at the plate.
Smith’s strong suit is defense, considering he has a plus arm behind the plate. He has thrown out 161 of 392 runners since 2011 (minors only), which equates to a 41.1 CS%. Passed balls have been an issue in the past, however he only allowed four in ’15 and zero in ’16.
Overall, if Smith is going to stick at the big league level, the best way for him to do so is with defense. While he will have to hit his weight, it is unlikely Smith’s bat is ever going to be good enough where it can be his calling card. Given that Smith is unlikely to be in baseball for the White Sox next playoff push, he could still spend a summer or two in the show.