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2017 Phillies Draft Preview: Pavin Smith, 1B

College World Series - Virginia v Vanderbilt - Game Three
Ginger power!
Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images

Smith is a 6’2" 210 lbs Left handed hitter and thrower. He plays Frist Base for the University of Virgina and was previously drafted in 2014 in the 32nd round by the Rockies. He would have been a pick in the top 3 rounds or so, but he made clear he intended to go to College. In High School he Pitched, played First Base and Outfield. Since arriving in Virginia he’s only played First. He’s a below average runner, but may have enough speed to be a Pat Burrell quality defender in Left with an above average arm.

Defensively at First Base he’s an above average defender with good range for the position and, when needed the arm to start a 3-4/6-3 double play. I like a First Baseman a little taller for those close plays when the extra couple inches can be the difference, but Keith Hernandez is one of the best defensive First Basemen to ever play and he was six foot flat, so it’s hard to get too worked up over 6’2" if the other tools are good.

So if I’m writing about a fairly First Base only prospect, the bat’s gotta be pretty good, right? Well, it is. Smith may be the best pure hitter in this draft. You may want to sit down for this stat, so far in 2017 Smith has a Willians Astudillo-esque 3.2% K rate, but pairs it with a more JP Crawford-esque 12.9% BB rate. Smith flaw, as it is, is his Power. His raw Power is 55-60 on the scouting scale. Which is to say above-average to Plus. It doesn’t show up in games as much as you’d like for 2 reasons: First is the home field for the Cavaliers which is Pitcher friendly and not prone to giving up big power numbers; the second reason is that UVA is basically Stanford East. The emphasize line drive swings and doubles power. The theory being that fly balls lead to fly-outs more often than homers and line drives are the contact type most likely to lead to hits. It’s good coaching for your home park, since neither school’s park is considered much of a launching pad. The drawback is that Stanford hitters have a bad rep in the Majors as guys who don’t reach their ceilings, especially for power.

Pavin’s swing is just plain perty, as is his barrel control. His swing has just enough lift for me to think maybe he’s got 20-25 HR power in game, which is pretty damn good if he can also maintain a .360+ OBP. Video below is from 2080 Baseball. All of his hits from a game in early April. Everything is solidly hit, no weak gimmes in this clip. The swing is pretty textbook and I can’t really find anything to critique.

Lest you think he hits everything, here he is striking out looking last Summer in the Cape Cod League (where he did well, this was still a rare K). If I have a critique on his swing it’s that I’d like to see him hold the bat more upright prior to swinging and not drop it back. It would shorten his path to the ball and allow him to possibly wait a little longer before swinging to pick up the pitch better. Which is a borderline absurd critique for a guy with his contact skill and K rate, but may help as he faces better stuff in pro ball.

I’ve seen a lot of reviews of Smith comping him to Mark Grace and the downside of James Loney (a guy whose lack of game power allowed pitchers to challenge him and his approach kind of fell apart). Not to downplay a Mark Grace upside, but I think I like PAvin’s power a little more. And a Mark Grace with 5-10 HR more per year is probably a 5 WAR player. I saw a few suggestions about changing Smith’s swing to add loft, but, to me, it sounds crazy to mess with a guy who has a potentially Plus-Plus hit tool. Play to the strengths.