When you have the No. 3 overall pick, it’s never too soon to take a quick peek into this year’s MLB draft. This year’s draft class is loaded with excellent hitting prospects, but is relatively weak on the pitching side.
Draft Prospects You Should Know is a new series that features prospects who the White Sox could pursue in this year’s draft. As the June draft nears, we’ll return to many of these athletes and provide updates on whether their stocks are rising (or falling).
Age listed as of Day One of the Draft (June 3).
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Josh Smith, a Baton Rouge native, was ranked fourth among Louisiana prep baseball players in the 2016 draft, but ultimately decided to play ball for his hometown LSU Tigers — despite being selected in the 38th round that year by Detroit’s Tigers.
As a freshman at LSU, Smith played out of position, at third base, to help lead his team to the NCAA Finals. Last year, he was set to slide over to shortstop, but was limited to six games due to a stress reaction in his back that he suffered early in the season. However, Smith is off to a terrific start in 2019 (through May 6):
2017 72 G, 242 AB, .281/.407/.409, 16 2B, 0 3B, 5 HR, 48 RBI, 5-0f-7 SB, 39 BB, 33 K
2018 6 G, 16 AB, .250/.435/.625, 0 2B, 0 3B, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 0-of-0 SB, 4 BB, 3 K
2019 47 G, 179 AB, .352/.446/.531, 11 2B, 0 3B, 7 HR, 28 RBI, 15-of-19 SB, 22 BB, 34 K
Smith (5´10´´, 175 pounds) possesses good albeit unexceptional speed, as his 60-yard-dash has been clocked at 6.78 seconds. Defensively, he possesses quick and athletic actions in the middle infield, has very quick and active feet, works through the ball well with a quick release and lots of raw arm strength, and plays defense with energy and aggressiveness. In other words, he’s an above-average defender. However, many scouts believe his talents are better suited at second than shortstop.
Offensively, Smith is a line-drive gap hitter who makes solid contact. Batting lefty, he has deceptive power to keep pitchers honest. He’s often late with his swings, which causes Smith to hit to the opposite field more often. Although he’s got decent speed, it really hadn’t translated into stolen bases until this season — Smith’s first-step quickness, however, helps him defensively, and with getting good jumps as a baserunner on batted balls (he’s already scored 57 runs in 47 games this year).
Just in case you’re wondering, he fared quite well in the Cape Cod League in 2017, when he slashed .372/.478/.513 with three homers in 76 at-bats. Smith has walked nearly as much as he’s struck out in the college level, which is never a bad sign. MLB Pipeline grades his arm and run tools at 55, hit and field 50, and power at 45. Thus he does enough things well to give him a decent floor, but not anything exceptional enough to give him a high ceiling.
Current projections have Smith drafted in the second or third rounds. Of course, the longer he can stay healthy and hit near .400 in the rugged SEC, the more secure he’ll be with second or even first round consideration — especially if teams believe he can play shortstop long-term. The White Sox could certainly use some middle-infield depth in their system, as Nick Madrigal and Laz Rivera are the only middle infielders among the Top 30 White Sox prospects according to MLB Pipeline. Smith’s upside certainly isn’t as strong as Bobby Witt, Jr., C.J. Abrams, or several other middle infielders in this draft. However, that doesn’t mean he couldn’t eventually become a key contributor. If the Sox select him in the draft, it’d be likely as a third round pick or later due to his relatively limited upside.
Here’s a video of him playing against Kentucky in 2017, courtesy of 2080 Baseball:
Previously, on Draft Prospects You Should Know
C.J. Abrams, Blessed Trinity (Ga.) H.S. SS
Hunter Bishop, Arizona State University OF
Cameron Cannon, University of Arizona 2B/3B
Matt Canterino, Rice University RHSP
Matt Cronin, University of Arkansas LHRP
Tyler Dyson, University of Florida RHSP
Daniel Espino, Georgia Premier Academy RHSP
Dominic Fletcher, University of Arkansas OF
Jonathan French, Parkview (Ga.) H.S. C
Ethan Hearn, Mobile Christian (Ala.) H.S. C
Zack Hess, LSU RHSP
Rece Hinds, IMG Baseball Academy (Fla.) 3B
Jason Hodges, Marist (Ill.) H.S. OF-1B
Will Holland, Auburn University SS
Seth Johnson, University of Oregon RHSP
Jack Leiter, Delbarton (N.J.) H.S. RHSP
Erik Miller, Stanford University LHSP
Chris Newell, Malvern (Pa.) Prep H.S. OF
Kyren Paris, Freedom (Calif.) H.S. SS
Quinn Priester, Cary-Grove (Ill.) H.S. RHSP
Adley Rutschman, Oregon State University C
Landon Sims, South Forsyth (Ga.) H.S., RHSP
Andrew Vaughn, University of California, 1B
Matt Wallner, Southern Miss University OF
Kenyon Yovan, University of Oregon RHSP
Ryan Zeferjahn, University of Kansas RHSP