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Not to add more doom and gloom

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Twins MLB Draft Preview: Pavin Smith, 1B

When it comes to college first basemen in this year’s draft class, Brendan McKay of Louisville has definitely been the most talked about player, but is he even the most complete hitter in his conference? There's a case to be made that Virginia first baseman Pavin Smith is the best hitter in the entire draft.

Smith doesn’t profile as the kind of sky high upside player you usually think of as a No. 1 overall pick, but is that such a bad thing? What Smith may lack in projectability, he makes up for in polish.
Image courtesy of Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports
Who Is He?

A 6-2, 210-pound lefty out of Jupiter, Fla., Smith made a pretty significant impact for the Cavaliers upon his arrival to campus. Not only did he start every game and lead UVA in hits as a freshman, he also helped lead them to their first ever College World Series Championship. Not too shabby.

Last season, his numbers improved across the board, but he’s really blossomed in 2017. So how does he stack up against McKay? Here’s a quick breakdown of their numbers this season ...

Smith: .346/.429/.571, 12 HR, 72 RBI, 52 R, 36 BB, 9 K
McKay: .363/.481/.705, 17 HR, 52 RBI, 52 R, 42 BB, 33 K

Smith doesn’t have the same eye-popping power numbers, but one thing to take special note of is that last number. Pavin Smith has more home runs than strikeouts this season. That’s bananas.

Of course, McKay facies himself as something of a pitcher as well. All he did was lead the ACC in strikeouts (124) while posting the fourth-lowest ERA in the conference (2.37). But enough on McKay, there will be plenty more on him here at Twins Daily later in the week.

Why The Twins Will Pick Him

Because they're scared of the potential bust factor with every other top prospect in this draft. With Smith, there is no having to try to figure our whether he's going to be a pitcher or a hitter. Really, there's very little to be worried about at all, comparatively speaking.

The Baseball America staff picked Smith as the best college hitter in the draft. Having shown an incredible prowess for handling the bat, Smith appears not only to be one of the safest bets in the draft, but it could be argued he’s the closest to being major league ready. Now I don’t know if we’re talking about ready to take over for Joe Mauer in 2019 ready … but maybe.



Also, it’s worth noting any concern over Smith transitioning over to wood bats can be relieved by the fact that he hit .318/.394/.444 in the Cap Cod League. John Sickels of Minor League Ball put a 60 grade on Smith’s power, calls him an asset at first base, and notes that he draws comps to John Olerud and Eric Hosmer. That’s not the sexiest profile, but he’s got a slab house floor -- no basement.

Another thing that could be working in Smith’s favor that’s it’s possible he’s willing to sign for significantly under slot. Nobody even has him projected to go in the top five (more on that to come), so he's likely flexible. That seems to be an unpopular strategy among Twins fans, but any money saved at the top could be used to sway some more big names in later rounds.

Looking from the outside in and following along with the national media coverage, it would seem like there’s a very low percentage chance the Twins are calling Pavin Smith’s name on June 12. But, remember, this is a brand new Twins front office. We have no historical data on this particular group of decision makers. Anything can happen.

Why The Twins Will Not Pick Him

The lack of projectability/upside hurts his case to be picked at 1:1. The Twins are expected (and rightly so) to be able to find not just a star, but a superstar. It would also seem pretty far-fetched to think the Twins would take Smith over McKay, given his superior performance in the same conference, regardless of whether they think he’ll be a pitcher or a first baseman. And that’s not even taking into account Kyle Wright or any of the great preps in the class.

He’s also not what I’d consider to be a high-skill position player. No offense to first basemen, and I’m not trying to belittle the impact they can make defensively, but they’re just much easier to find than starting pitchers, shortstops, center fielders or catchers.

Keith Law appears to have Smith the highest in his latest mock, pegging him to go to Oakland with the sixth pick. In Baseball America’s latest mock, they had Smith going seventh to Arizona. Same for Ryan Fagan of The Sporting News. Jim Callis of MLB.com has him going eighth to Philadelphia, as does Jay Jaffe of SI.com. Benjamin Chase of Call to the Pen has him going ninth to Milwaukee.

And one last link to share, this one from Twins Daily member Hrbowski, who wrote an excellent and in-depth profile on Smith back in April that is well worth your time.

So, if you’re to believe the experts, there appears to be very little chance the Twins take Smith. What do you think? Should the Twins take aim at one of the higher-upside players in the draft? Or take more of a sure thing like Smith and save a little bit of money to use later in the draft in the process?

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36 Comments

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drivlikejehu
May 31 2017 11:01 PM

I think Smith is actually a fairly risky prospect -- his lack of defensive value and so-so in-game power are huge problems from a projection standpoint. He probably needs to significantly change his swing to produce more loft, which is certainly possible but not really what I'd be looking for at the top of the draft. 

Nope, nope, nope. Don't you guys recognize a wrist-flip swing when you see one? This guy's "power" is all in that fake bat, in that artificially huge sweet spot spread a foot wide along its length. When he goes to wood, HE. WILL. FLOP. 

 

Remember David McCarty from 1991? Meet David McCarty 2.0. This year, his name is Pavin Smith. The team that drafts this guy is going to have a light-hitting first baseman whose power disappears the minute he puts down his artificial bat, just like McCarty's did. When Smith faces professional pitchers with a wood bat and that tiny sweet spot, you can cut all his offensive numbers IN HALF, including his average exit velocity. 

I like that approximately half of the video was devoted to his home run trot. :)

 

I don't know what a wrist-flip swing is, but am I wrong in thinking that the swing is pretty far on the long end of the spectrum?

 

    • nicksaviking likes this
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HitInAPinch
Jun 01 2017 01:44 AM

From what I've been reading here, there's no consensus lock on that 1:1 pick.  It'll be interesting to see people with a different view of baseball making the draft decisions.

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diehardtwinsfan
Jun 01 2017 05:30 AM

Cannot argue with his eye... goodness... kid doesn't strike out.I'd still take Wright or McKay at this point though.

Zero interest in a 1B only player 1:1. I do think he has a real shot to be a legit MLB player, though. I just gotta go for more upside than that, when given the chance.

    • Tibs likes this

Reminds me a bit of Colin Moran who walked a ton in college and isn't really a prospect anymore. I think Smith is better and won't bust like Moran but it's a scary comp.

    • Mike Sixel likes this
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Willihammer
Jun 01 2017 08:26 AM

 

Nope, nope, nope. Don't you guys recognize a wrist-flip swing when you see one? This guy's "power" is all in that fake bat, in that artificially huge sweet spot spread a foot wide along its length. When he goes to wood, HE. WILL. FLOP.

Interesting point. Wouldn't you say that the ultra low strikeout numbers and rave reviews about his hit tool make him an above average candidate to successfully make the transition to a bat with a smaller sweet spot?

So, I guess the logic would be: Smith signs for about 3m less than slot. Twins then arrange for someone else (Faedo?) who wants 5m or so to slip to 35 or get two guys in the 20ish range to slip to 35/37 for 1.5m more than slot each? (Canning and Lange)?  

 

I think the big problem with that idea is 1) The Twins need pitching and the college pitching seems to be McKay and Wright in the 1/1 conversation, Bukakas and Faedo in the 7-12 rangle and a handful of arms in the 15-25ish range. Guys in the 20ish range could easily fall on their own (see Dakota Hudson last year, Buehler the year before).  2) It seems that with all the high end high school pitching, we're going to see either a college arm or a HS arm drop farther than we expected even if we play the top of the draft straight. 3. While we have the biggest pool, we don't get to pick for a second time until after the Reds so they would be fully capable of 'stealing' a falling arm from us.

 

I'd love a draft of, say, Smith, Faedo, Lange but I'm not sure that's realistic and a draft of Wright, HS arm, Crowe is realistic and probably better anyway.

    • 70charger likes this

More than 1 team picks a 2nd time before MN......the pool is smaller....there is no guarantee a guy will fall. Pick the player you like the best. Good players will be there at 35 and 37, no matter what some here would say about how it is nigh on impossible to make good picks that late.

    • Tibs and gagu like this
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drivlikejehu
Jun 01 2017 08:41 AM

 

So, I guess the logic would be: Smith signs for about 3m less than slot. Twins then arrange for someone else (Faedo?) who wants 5m or so to slip to 35 or get two guys in the 20ish range to slip to 35/37 for 1.5m more than slot each? (Canning and Lange)?  

 

I think the big problem with that idea is 1) The Twins need pitching and the college pitching seems to be McKay and Wright in the 1/1 conversation, Bukakas and Faedo in the 7-12 rangle and a handful of arms in the 15-25ish range. Guys in the 20ish range could easily fall on their own (see Dakota Hudson last year, Buehler the year before).  2) It seems that with all the high end high school pitching, we're going to see either a college arm or a HS arm drop farther than we expected even if we play the top of the draft straight. 3. While we have the biggest pool, we don't get to pick for a second time until after the Reds so they would be fully capable of 'stealing' a falling arm from us.

 

I'd love a draft of, say, Smith, Faedo, Lange but I'm not sure that's realistic and a draft of Wright, HS arm, Crowe is realistic and probably better anyway.

 

If you want Faedo, just sign him way below slot at #1. He has more upside than Smith anyway.

    • Mike Sixel and gunnarthor like this

 

If you want Faedo, just sign him way below slot at #1. He has more upside than Smith anyway.

Yeah, it'd have suggested that but it's a Smith thread.

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Willihammer
Jun 01 2017 08:49 AM

Smith has trimmed his k-rate, increased his walk rate, and power in every season at Virginia.

Faedo's k-rate is falling and his bb-rate rising. There might still be more upside with Faedo but the trends are worse.

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Comrade Bork
Jun 01 2017 08:50 AM
I'd still try and sign Greene under the slot limit and leverage the fact no prep pitcher has ever been taken first over all. You gotta go for the upside. I want to see the twins swing for the fences on this draft. The old regime was too conservative and I don't want to fall back into that trap.
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Willihammer
Jun 01 2017 08:54 AM

 

So, I guess the logic would be: Smith signs for about 3m less than slot. Twins then arrange for someone else (Faedo?) who wants 5m or so to slip to 35 or get two guys in the 20ish range to slip to 35/37 for 1.5m more than slot each? (Canning and Lange)?  

.

Right. For anyone wondering why Smith is getting a look, the reason is his price would be significantly less than most others being talked about for 1-1. If we're trying to get max value out of the draft as a whole, it doesn't necessarily make sense to take the BPA starting with the first pick. Most would agree that isn'tSmith.

 

Question, what if Smith would sign for $4m? Ie. #10 money? What about $3.5m (#15 slot)? How low would the price have to be for the pick to make sense?

 

Right. For anyone wondering why Smith is getting a look, the reason is his price would be significantly less than most others being talked about for 1-1. If we're trying to get max value out of the draft as a whole, it doesn't necessarily make sense to take the BPA starting with the first pick. Most would agree that isn'tSmith.

 

Question, what if Smith would sign for $4m? Ie. #10 money? What about $3.5m (#15 slot)? How low would the price have to be for the pick to make sense?

 

For me?

 

Zero. I'd do it for zero dollars.

 

Otherwise, give me the better players. All day.

    • Tibs likes this
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drivlikejehu
Jun 01 2017 09:03 AM

 

Smith has trimmed his k-rate, increased his walk rate, and power in every season at Virginia.

Faedo's k-rate is falling and his bb-rate rising. There might still be more upside with Faedo but the trends are worse.

 

Smith isn't even the best position player prospect on his own team - Haseley was much better this year and has better projection. His trend is also much more dramatic, to the extent it matters. 

 

Right. For anyone wondering why Smith is getting a look, the reason is his price would be significantly less than most others being talked about for 1-1. If we're trying to get max value out of the draft as a whole, it doesn't necessarily make sense to take the BPA starting with the first pick. Most would agree that isn'tSmith.

 

Question, what if Smith would sign for $4m? Ie. #10 money? What about $3.5m (#15 slot)? How low would the price have to be for the pick to make sense?

I'm not opposed to the idea of getting someone to drop and saving money on 1/1. But I'm concerned about the actual ability to get a guy to drop to 35/37. And the list of guys I want is relatively small. I want at least two college pitchers taken in our first three picks unless some super HS arm dropped.

 

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Willihammer
Jun 01 2017 09:44 AM

 

I'm not opposed to the idea of getting someone to drop and saving money on 1/1. But I'm concerned about the actual ability to get a guy to drop to 35/37. And the list of guys I want is relatively small. I want at least two college pitchers taken in our first three picks unless some super HS arm dropped.

I don't think it would be much trouble. But, even if is, that savings can come in handy later too.

 

Checkout this review of the 2015 draft. One in eight picks taken in rounds 11-20 didn't sign. Righthanded high school pitchers were particularly difficult to sign later in the draft.

 

http://www.minorleag...-20-rounds-2015

    • gunnarthor and Oldgoat_MN like this

 

 


Why The Twins Will Not Pick Him

 

Because the last thing they need is a first baseman.They already have top talent in the position (Lewin Diaz, Alex Kirilloff) and plenty of OF that can handle 1B in their organization.

 

I don't think it would be much trouble. But, even if is, that savings can come in handy later too.

 

Checkout this review of the 2015 draft. One in eight picks taken in rounds 11-20 didn't sign. Righthanded high school pitchers were particularly difficult to sign later in the draft.

 

http://www.minorleag...-20-rounds-2015

Yeah, that's a nice list. If the Twins were going to go cheap at 1/1, I'd rather it was still for a pitcher. But having a few hundred thousand to get guys like Eastman to sign in round 11+ would be very nice too.

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nicksaviking
Jun 01 2017 10:45 AM

I'm not sure the moderators could handle what would become of this site should the Twins use pick 1:1 on a high-contact, low power 1B to replace the current high-contact, low power 1B who was drafted 1:1.

    • Thrylos, Mike Sixel, gunnarthor and 2 others like this
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Tom Froemming
Jun 01 2017 12:45 PM

Thanks for the comments and valuable observations/impressions of Smith. For the record, I would not be too thrilled if the Twins took him and I think there's only about a 1% chance they do. Nothing against him, I'd just like to see them aim higher with the No. 1 overall pick.

 

But just for fun, let's say we know Smith turns into a carbon copy of John Olerud (.295/.398/.465 line, 129 OPS+, 130 wRC+, a 162-game average of 18 HRs). Would you take him? 

    • gagu likes this

If I knew with 100% certainty he'd be Olerud, you have to take him.

 

but, there is no way to know that at all.

    • gagu likes this

If I knew with 100% certainty he'd be Olerud, you have to take him.

 

but, there is no way to know that at all.

I would not pick Olerud at 1:1, because if I get to know that he'll have the career he had, then I also get to know that Frank Thomas will have the career he had, and I want him more that year.

    • nicksaviking likes this