Yankees Top 30 Prospects for 2020: Canaan Smith (OF, #21)
Today we continue our Yankees Top-30 Prospects Countdown for the 2020 season with OF Canaan Smith.
Drafted as a catcher, Canaan Smith was unranked by most publications going into his first eligible draft. That didn’t bother the Yankees as they drafted him in the 4th round and offered him above slot value to sign and skip college. A prospect with a great eye and patience, he led the GCL in walks in his first season, but ended the year with injury and suffered with very poor performance in 2018. A bounce-back 2019 with a .307 batting average and another league-lead in walks has helped prove who is he, but another season will help solidify the deal.
(Screenshot From Prospects Live Video, here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8sO2MCsEVLE)
Canaan Smith, OF (#21):
Age/Date of Birth: 20 Years Old (04/30/1999)
2019 Team(s): Charleston RiverDogs (Class A)
2019 MiLB Statistics: .307/.405/.465 (0.871 OPS), 11 HR, 74 RBIs, 74 Walks, 108 Strikeouts (124 Games, 449 At-Bats)
Height/Weight: 6’0”/215 Pounds
Acquired: Drafted by the New York Yankees with the 122nd Pick (4th Round) in the 2017 MLB Draft
MLB ETA: 2022
Canaan Smith Scouting Grades (20-80 Scale):
What to Know:
Coming into the 2017 MLB Draft, then a catcher, Canaan Smith didn’t rank among the MLB.com Top 200 Draft prospects. He didn’t rank among the Bleacher Report Top 100. And on MinorLeagueBall.com Smith was ranked #466 out of 500. So, where would a team draft a player like him? Apparently with the 122nd Pick, worth a good $433,100 in slot value. Sometimes this happens for a team to save a lot of bonus money to sign other players above slot, which the New York Yankees did notably in 2018 with Connor Van Hoose, signing him for $7,500 with a pick that had a value of $159,800. Canaan Smith however, signed for $497,500. He was a catcher coming out of high school who was incredibly low ranked, yet the Yankees saw potential and did what hey could to keep him for college ball.
It was on the same day he signed that Canaan Smith began his professional baseball career, this time as an outfielder, becoming a New York Yankee farm hand and going the Yankees East of the Rookie Gulf Coast league. As a player out of high school, this level isn’t often skipped, and Smith followed suit, spending 57 games and his 2017 season there. Not much was known about Smith, but he did do well, hitting to a .289/.430/.422 triple-slash (0.853) and leading the league in walks with 46, which is pretty impressive considering the opinions (or lack thereof) from scouts league wide pre-draft. However, Smith’s season did end early, with him ending up on the 60-Day DL. (After searching, I could not identify what type of injury he sustained.)
His 2018 however was not as special. After receiving a promotion up to the Staten Island Yankees (Class A Short Season) Smith seemed lost as his batting average dipped nearly 100 points, his OBP tanked nearly 150 points and his slugging dropped over 100 points to a triple-slash of .191/.281/.316 (.596 OPS). He walked only 19 times in 45 games, an incredible decline from his prior year and his showing as a senior in High School (where he had 57 walks). It seemed as though Canaan Smith forgot his approach, hitting to a GO/AO (ground-outs to air-outs) of 1.50, which is not good. That season, Canaan’s high-water mark for batting average was .250. This was after the first game of the season when he went 1-4. From here on, he would hit .200 after his 4th game, and after game number 5 his batting average would not reach .200 again in 2018.
Even with that, the Yankees had hope in Smith and promoted him to the Charleston RiverDogs (Class A). Coming back from a miserable season this may have been the true spark he needed to re-find himself. At seasons end, Canaan lead the league in walks (74), was second in OBP (.405), and third in both BA (.307) and OPS (.871). It was his first stint of a true professional season, playing in 124 games. He combined this with good strikeout numbers (108) and a much improved GO/AO down to 1.15.
Overall, Canaan Smith has the makings of a true hitter. Most minor leaguers have problems trying to contain their swing and build up plate discipline and patience to a level that helps boost their overall numbers. It appears Smith already has this tool, which is a big bonus to him. Combine that with good bat speed, pure strength, and surprising speed for his size, and his overall offensive profile looks very promising. There is little said about his defense, which could be a good or bad thing, and considerably more about how he was a quarterback in High School which could mean he has a good arm with range and strength for the corner outfield.
What Will the Future Hold?
As I’ve said before, the jump to Double-A is often the hardest for minor leaguers, but Smith has some experience with big jumps from Low-Rookie ball right to Class A ball, skipping over Pulaski entirely. With his top of the league hitting last season, moving up seems like an inevitability, just the timing is the piece to work out. In a normal season, I would expect that to come near the middle, but given the current situation, there is a chance it doesn’t happen at all in 2020. My best guess is that it would come with about a month or so left of the season to give Smith some experience to work from in the offseason.
I’d still like to see more from Smith to prove that 2018 was a fluke before I make any declarations about his stock drastically rising. Hitting over .300 at any level given his age at each so far is impressive and good for his future, but with how low he fell it will take a lot to prove his true worth. I think the upper 20s is a perfect spot for him currently, with a move up possible with more consistency this year and next.