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2024 South Side Sox Top Prospect No. 65: Colby Smelley

A full season of health will be necessary in a make-or-break 2024

It was a slow start to the season for Colby Smelley, but his numbers actually perked up after a promotion to High-A.
| Salina Rae Silver/South Side Sox

Colby Smelley

195 pounds
Age: 24
2022 SSS Top Prospect Rank 94
2023 SSS Top Prospect Rank 69
2023 High Level Winston-Salem (High-A)
Age relative to high level +0.8 years
SSS rank among all catchers in the system 7
Overall 2023 stats 47 games ⚾️ 1 HR ⚾️ 24 RBI ⚾️ .275/.368/.319 ⚾️ 21 BB ⚾️ 38 K ⚾️ 13-of-51 (25.5%) CS

Colby Smelley, a native of Tuscaloosa, Ala., stayed in his hometown to play college ball for Shelton State Community College. He enjoyed a terrific two years with the Buccaneers, culminating in 2021 by slashing .436/.536/.687 in 54 games with 16 doubles, nine homers, 48 RBIs, 29 walks and 27 strikeouts. As a reward for his efforts, he signed with the Sox after being selected in the 13th round the 2021 draft.

Like many of the catchers who played in the ACL, Smelley didn’t receive much playing time. In nine games totaling 29 at-bats, he slashed .241/.267/.310 with two doubles, a walk and eight strikeouts. While he threw out just 22% of attempted base stealers with Shelton State in 2021, Smelley nailed 2-of-4 such attempts for the Arizona squad. He did play some outfield in college as well, so he may have a bit more versatility than most catchers.

That supposed versatility, however, did not serve Smelley well behind the plate in 2022. He was, in a word, atrocious as a backstop at both levels of A-ball, with mediocre CS numbers (no surprise, given the rules changes), six errors and seven passed balls — in 32 games! At age 22, it seems Smelley has settled into a ... DH role?

Problem there is, Smelley hit for no power in 2022, although he can definitely get on base via hit or walk (.373 OBP).

On one hand, Smelley’s 2023 was inspiring in that he saw more time at catcher than DH — in 2022 he played only 32 of 103 there, mostly DHing otherwise. However, given a late start to the season, Smelley didn’t even see action until June 3, so he still only saw 34 games behind the plate overall. He threw a better percentage of runners out stealing, but his rate there is still subpar. Without a big breakout — and full health — it’s hard to see a path forward for him, even given his on-base ability.

Smelley’s Baseball Cube player ratings
Hitting 64 (+6 from last season)
RBIs 63 (unchanged)
Contact 55 (+8)
Durability 43 (-4)
XBH 26 (-10)
Power 24 (-9)
Speed 16 (-2)
Runs 9 (-3)

Smelley will be age-appropriate for Double-A in 2024, but his catching performance doesn’t really merit such a move; expect a start with the Dash, and presuming at least his on-base game is still sharp, a promotion to Birmingham will loom.

2024 South Side Sox Top 100 White Sox Prospects

65. Colby Smelley, C
66. Wes Kath, 3B
67. Alsander Womack, 2B
68. Jordan Sprinkle, SS
69. Connor McCullough, RHSP
70. Luis Rodriguez, RHRP
71. Jonah Scolaro, LHRP
72. Ben Beutel, LHRP
73. Stiven Flores, C
74. Adrian Gil, 1B
75. Yohemy Nolasco, RHRP
76. Ben Norman, LF
77. Josimar Cousín, RHSP
78. Juan Gonzalez, C
79. Chris Lanzilli, LF
80. Alex Speas, RHRP
81. Fraser Ellard, LHRP
82. Garrett Wright, RHRP
83. Duke Ellis, CF
84. Mathias LaCombe, RHRP
85. Godwin Bennett, RF
86. Rikuu Nishida, LF
87. Caden Connor, LF
88. Zach Franklin, RHRP
89. Jeremy González, LHSP
90. Jerry Burke, RHRP
91. Frankeli Arias, LHSP
92. Mikey Kane, 3B
93. Carlton Perkins, RHSP
94. Tyler Neslony, LF
95. Drew Dalquist, RHSP
96. Jason Matthews, SS
97. Jonathan Stiever, RHSP
98. Tommy Sommer, LHSP
99. Daniel González, LHRP
100. Eduardo Herrera, 3B

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