According to multiple sources on the internet (although not quite yet from the Blue Jays’ official twitter), the Blue Jays will purchase the contract of Dwight Smith, Jr. to take Kevin Pillar‘s place on the roster while he serves his two-game suspension.
In other news, I’m sure you’ve heard by now that Kevin Pillar has been suspended by the Blue Jays for two games following his anti-LGBTQ slur hurled at pitcher Jason Motte in last night’s game. Pillar’s suspension removes him from the 40-man roster for those games, enabling the Blue Jays to bring up Smith without clearing a space although I’m not exactly sure what’s going to happen when Pillar’s suspension is over.
Smith was a compensatory pick by the Blue Jays in the 2011 draft, going 53rd overall and signing for $800,000. That year, the Blue Jays selected Tyler Beede (who didn’t sign) with the 21st overall pick, Jacob Anderson (who was released earlier this year) with the 35th overall pick and Joe Musgrove (who was traded to Houston for J.A. Happ the first time he was a Blue Jay, and made his major league debut last year) with the 46th overall pick before Smith was selected.
The son of former major leaguer Dwight Smith, Junior started his pro career with the Blue Jays’ affiliates in Vancouver and Bluefield in 2012, hitting .226/.289/.340 in 41 games in Bluefield. I first saw him in Lansing where he hit a solid .284/.365/.388 for the Lugnuts in 2013. He was turning heads mostly due to his baseball acumen, stealing 25 bases in 30 attempts despite playing in Dalton Pompey‘s shadow. In 2014, he and Pompey moved up to Dunedin and whereas Pompey made it all the way to the big leagues that year, Smith spent the whole season honing his craft in Dunedin where he put up an eerily similar line to his 2013 numbers but with a little more power, hitting 28 doubles, eight triples and 12 home runs with a .284/.363/.453 slash line. Smith also played in the Arizona Fall League that year, hitting .262/.340/.333.
Smith’s incremental rise through the Blue Jays’ organization continued in 2015 as he joined the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, putting up similarly solid but unimpressive numbers. In 2016, he repeated the Double-A level, but more than doubled his home run total to 15, a career high.
I saw Smith in the spring and in Buffalo to start the year and notice that he’s generating a lot more power than before despite maintaining very similar hitting mechanics to his earlier years. He takes a big leg kick and has a lot of bat wrap before he starts his swing. So far this year, he’s got a .297/.350/.422 slash line with seven doubles and three home runs in 36 games with the Bisons.
Smith has consistently proven himself in the minor leagues despite having the label of a “tweener” — a player who probably won’t hit for enough power to be a typical corner outfielder but who doesn’t have enough defensive ability to play center. At one point, the Blue Jays even experimented with putting Smith at second base, but that didn’t last long. That said, Smith’s increase in power over the past couple of years give me hope that he could indeed be a high-teens home run threat in the majors if he’s given the chance. He can play all three outfield positions (but has played mostly right field in Buffalo this year) but he’s not known for his defense or his arm.
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