As we continue our Chicago White Sox draft coverage leading up to the MLB Draft tomorrow, we take a look at University of Virginia first-baseman, Pavin Smith. Smith has a mixed bag of prospect rankings, ranging from number eight according to MLB Pipeline, all the way down to number 18 according to FanGraphs, with an average ranking of 12.
Smith is in the midst of an All-First Team ACC campaign for the Virginia Cavaliers, and was named a finalist for the 2017 Golden Spikes Award, the honor bestowed upon the most outstanding player in collegiate baseball each season. Smith wrapped up his Junior season with a school-record 72 RBI, good for second best among ACC hitters and fourth in the nation.
Smith hit 12 home runs in 2017, and ranks 14th among all hitters in batting average, checking in with an excellent .342 mark this season. The six-foot-two, 210 pound first-baseman put together an impressive .342/.427/.570 slash line for the Cavaliers this season.
Baseball America gave Pavin Smith the following grades on the 20/80 scale:
Hit:55 / Power:55 / Run:35 / Throw:50 / Fielding:50 / Overall:55
Much like his Virginia teammate Adam Haseley, Smith has displayed an above average knack for hitting for a high average. Haseley finished the regular season with a .399 batting average, and Smith wrapped up the campaign with a phenomenal .342 batting average. As I mentioned in Haseley’s prospect profile, the White Sox were sold on last year’s first round selection Zack Collins in large part due to his ability to hit for a high average and get on base consistently. Smith most definitely fits the mold.
Not only can Smith get on base at a high rate, he is one of the more difficult hitters to strikeout in all of college baseball, the second most difficult to be exact. In 2017, Smith struck out a minuscule nine times, meaning he actually hit three more home runs than the amount of times he struck out all season. Nine strikeouts in 217 at-bats (261 plate appearances) gives the Cavaliers’ first-basemen an average of one strikeout for every 24 at-bats.
Not only is Smith one of the better hitters available in the draft, he is one of the better defenders at first base that is available in this year’s draft.
There’s not much to report here, Smith is a pretty well-rounded ball player in terms of a first-baseman. He hits for a high average, and has displayed some power as well as the ability to drive in runs. A left-handed hitter that really has a great plate presence and plays solid defense at his position.
The only concern is obviously how well his collegiate numbers will translate to the professional level, especially with the elimination of the metal bat, however the same applies for all of the prospects available in the draft. It’s worth noting as well that Smith played well in the Cape Cod league, a wood bat only summer league for the top players in collegiate baseball.
The White Sox need a first-baseman to replace Jose Abreu, whether or not Jose Abreu is traded in the near future. Abreu is a gaping defensive liability at first-base, and if he remains with the White Sox for the long-term, expect him to be moved to the designated hitter position on a full-time basis when this team is ready to be contenders.
Enter Pavin Smith, a left-handed hitting first-baseman with a glove that is projected to be serviceable at minimum at the major-league level. Smith would fill the void defensively, and is an efficient left-handed hitter that will fall somewhere into the middle of the White Sox order, filling two needs for the White Sox with one pick.
Not only does Smith have the ability to hit for power, he has an impressive level of plate discipline, evident by his 72 walks to only 32 strikeouts over his past two seasons at UVA. While many have Smith going higher than 11 in Monday’s draft, some, most prominently Baseball America, have him sliding all the way to number 18 when the San Francisco Giants are up to pick.
It’s not inconceivable, and here’s why. The Oakland Athletics are likely the first team that would consider Pavin at number six overall, and the Athletics have far bigger gaping needs than first base, and there will be far better fits available for them at number six.
The Diamondbacks, Phillies, Angels and Brewers remain the teams between the White Sox and Pavin Smith at that point. Arizona has Paul Goldschmidt, scratch them from the list as well. The Angels second ranked prospect, and 2016 first-round selection Matt Thaiss coupled with their desperate need for pitching all but eliminates them from the equation as well.
That would mean that the Phillies and Brewers would be the two teams ahead of the White Sox with a strong reason to take Smith inside of the top-10. At this point, I would be enthusiastically surprised if both of those two clubs passed on Smith. If Smith is in fact available at number 11, he is my favorite pick for the White Sox.
Check out our other White Sox Draft Profiles: