In 2017, with the Bluefield Blue Jays, Toronto Blue Jay prospect Kevin Smith hit .271 with a .312 OBP in 61 games. He was drafted that year in the fourth round (129th overall) by the Blue Jays, and spending all of his time at shortstop, he wasn’t at the top of any prospect lists.
I interviewed him at the start of the minor league offseason and asked him about some of his goals for the 2018 season. Here’s what he said:
“Right now, my goal is to be fully prepared going into spring training. I have programs designed to start eliminating weaknesses in my game and improve areas that will help me contribute to my team next year. I want to win a championship next year; that’s the only other goal I have at the moment. I set smaller goals as the season progresses.”
I took it as standard player jargon; of course he’ll work to get better, and he certainly has the ability to improve, but a change in the on-field product might not happen.
I was totally wrong.
Whether he stuck to his offseason plan or not, Smith, in 2018, has already turned his fair share of heads. Before a promotion from the Lansing Lugnuts to the Dunedin Blue Jays, Smith was hitting .355 with a .407 OBP in 46 games. He had 12 stolen bases and 23 doubles.
Smith also received minor league player of the week honours and some media attention past Toronto.
Here’s what Smith said to Shi Davidi of Sportsnet in May:
“I self-evaluate a lot, probably more than I should, but I knew that was an area that I had to work on. I had a loop in my swing and I’m not really sure how it got there. Looking at swings, I can tell when something’s off. I was getting way under the ball, coming way up through it and I really wasn’t on plane with it for a while. The whole off-season was just trying to work on that ball up and that was what was giving me trouble, fastballs up, I’d try to cheat to it and then get exposed with breaking balls away.”
He also made a similar comment to David Laurila of FanGraphs:
“After evaluating myself following last season, I knew that I needed to change some things up. My swing plane was kind of a mess. This offseason, I worked on some things to flatten out and be in the zone a little longer, but without losing any of the power I had last year.”
Smith was serious. He made adjustments and certainly put in the work to make differences, and the results show the fruit of the changes he made.
Currently, he’s hitting .160 in six games in Dunedin. But next time he says he’s making adjustments, I’ll believe him.