Yankees Top 30 Prospects for 2020: Josh Smith (SS, #18)
Today we continue our Yankees Top-30 Prospects Countdown for the 2020 season with SS Josh Smith.
Originally drafted in 2016 by the Detroit Tigers, Josh Smith opted to play with a different Tigers at Louisiana. State where he came close to winning the College World Series as a freshman. After an injured sophomore year, in his junior year Smith lead his team at LSU in AVG, OBP, and SLG before the New York Yankees drafted him in the 2nd Round of the 2019 MLB Draft. Playing with the Staten Island Yankees less than two weeks after signing, Smith continued to show consistency at the plate, again hitting over .300 while showing good defense at shortstop. There are questions about where he fits best on defense, but his bat can play at either 2B or SS.
(Screenshot From New York Yankees Video, here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D6XVLDxFTpg)
Josh Smith, SS (#18):
Age/Date of Birth: 22 Years Old (08/07/1997)
2019 Team(s): Staten Island Yankees (Class A Short)
2019 MiLB Statistics: .324/.450/.477 (0.927 OPS), 3 HR, 15 RBIs, 25 Walks, 17 Strikeouts (33 Games, 111 At-Bats)
Height/Weight: 5’10”/172 Pounds
Acquired: Drafted by the New York Yankees with the 67th Overall Pick (2nd Round) of the 2019 MLB Draft
MLB ETA: 2022
Josh Smith Scouting Grades (20-80 Scale):
What to Know:
Originally drafted by the Detroit Tigers in the 38th Round of the 2016 MLB Draft, Josh Smith declined a small late-round signing bonus to play with the Tigers of Louisiana State University (LSU). In his first year with the LSU Tigers Smith was the starting third baseman on the team that would become the runners-up in the 2017 College World Series. As a sophomore, before moving over to shortstop, a stress reaction in his back kept him to only 6 games and miss summer ball. That next season, Smith came back to be the Tiger’s best hitter, leading the team in batting average, OBP, and SLG (.346/.433/.533), while playing in the middle infield. This paved the way for the Yankees to pick Josh Smith with the 67th Overall pick (Smith was ranked 76th by MLB.com) in the 2nd Round of the 2019 MLB Draft, signing him to a bonus, exactly at slot value of $976,700 on July 12th.
13 Days after inking a contract, Josh Smith was assigned to the Staten Island Yankees, which he where he would end the season. Playing in 33 games, Smith did have a very good showing in his first stint in professional baseball, hitting to a .324 average, nearly a 1.000 OPS, and walking (25) more times than he struck out (17). After the draft Smith was already ranked #18 in the system, and the numbers he put up helped to keep him there. After the season he was assigned to the New York Yankees, signaling that a move up could be in the cards.
Overall, Josh Smith seems like a more advanced version of Alexander Vargas- who we talked about 2 days ago– a middle of the infield player who projects to be a consistent hitter with good defense and good speed, yet Smith does also project to maybe have 15-20 home run per year power. Outside of that power potential, they also differ in how some scouts see Smith as a future second baseman because of his range even though he makes all the routine plays at shortstop. Off his tools, none of them stand-out incredibly but because they are all solid with high floors, it adds a lot to his value as a player who should be easy to expect things from in the future.
What Will the Future Hold?
After playing very similarly in both Division-I college ball and Class-A professional baseball, Smith has already shown that he can handle major jumps and promotions. Many college players will start out where he did but not play as consistently or as well, but after his. 2019 season the Yankees did already assign him, which often means a promotion could be in the works. With a 2022 projected MLB entrance, a full length season with the Charleston RiverDogs (Class A Advanced) would put him exactly on track to meet this.
Staying at exactly the same ranking from the end of the 2019 season to this years pre-season rankings, Josh Smith has sat at #18 both times, which is exactly where a player of his skills tends to end up given his short professional games record. However, looking back to a player like Rob Refsnyder, whose tools projected a good second baseman, Smith could very well see his prospect stock rise quickly if he continues to hit above .300 at each league he plays with good to great defense and occasional pop. I wouldn’t expect a big jump this season, but I could see Smith making quick promotions (and therefore adding to his value) in 2021, maybe even placing him near the Top-10 in the system.