Yankees Top 30 Prospects for 2021: Josh Smith (SS, #14)
Josh Smith is a Yankees shortstop and the Yankees 3rd highest ranked pure left-handed hitter. With potential of having some 20:20 seasons at the MLB level while playing solid defense at shortstop, his game looks to provide an excellent piece for the Yankees of the future. He is a hot commodity in trade talks which leads me to believe he has more to access, but for the time being I have a good feeling about Smith’s future in pinstripes.
JOSH SMITH, SS (#14):
Age/Date of Birth: 23 Years Old (08/07/1997)
Most Recent Team(s) (Level and Year): Staten Island Yankees (Class A: Short Season, 2019)
Most Recent Yearly Statistics (2019): .324/.450/.477 (.927 OPS), 3 HR, 15 RBIs, 25 Walks, 17 Strikeouts (33 Games, 141 At-Bats)
Height/Weight: 5’10”/172 Pounds
Acquired: Drafted in the 2nd Round in the 2019 First Year Player Draft by the New York Yankees with the 67th overall pick.
MLB ETA: 2022
JOSH SMITH SCOUTING GRADES (20-80 SCALE):
What to Know:
Originally drafted out of Catholic High School (Baton Rouge, LA) by the Detroit Tigers in the 38th round of the 2016 MLB Draft, Josh Smith instead opted to attend a different tiger-based program. Heading instead to the Tigers of Louisiana State University (Baton Rouge, LA; NCAA D-I, SEC), this played well for Smith who had a very good college career.
Smith was a third-baseman during his freshman year as the LSU Tigers were the runners up in the 2017 College World Series. Unfortunately his sophomore season was limited to 6 games after a stress reaction to one of his lumbar vertebrae, though this was the start of his move to shortstop. His junior year was his best year as he led LSU is BA (.346), OBP (.433), SLG (.533) and stolen bases (20). This helped lead Smith to a 2nd round selection in the 2019 MLB Draft by the New York Yankees, where he would sign for $976,700.
That same year the Yankees would send Smith to play with the Staten Island Yankees (Class A Short Season, New-York Penn), where he would total 33 games played around stats that closely resembled his college season with a triple-slash of .324/.450/.477 with an OPS of .927 compared to .966.
As a hitter, Smith has an incredible contact-based approach which allows him to take the ball to all fields with hard contact. He is also patient at the plate which has allowed him to have a near 1:1 BB:K rate over all levels of baseball (108:110). With potential to hit 15-20 Home Runs, Smith also boasts above-average speed which could allow for some 20:20 seasons in his future.
As a fielder, Smith is going to remain a shortstop per the Yankees request, even if some believe he would be a better fit on the other side of second base due to his range. However, Smith has all the tools to remain a confident and reliable defender with his form and solid arm strength.
What Will the Future Hold?
The Yankees are likely to start Smith with the Hudson Valley Renegades (Class High-A) for the 2021 season. After having success with Staten Island (albeit over only 33 games) the Yankees should look to really push Smith up the ranks quickly. Starting with Hudson Valley would allow a mid-season move up to the Somerset Patriots (Double-A) if the bat continues to play and his defense holds up.
To me, the MLB ETA of 2022 is dependent on Smith’s ability to produce at the Double-A level this season. Personally, I believe that he’ll be able to do so given the solid tools across the board and the benefit of being a left-handed hitter in the Yankees system. However, I would not expect that MLB ETA to mean that he’ll be the next Yankees starting shortstop. His current ceiling likely tops at having an All-Star season (or two) at the MLB level, while his floor is definitely that of a quad-A player. I’d also keep him at shortstop for the time being if I was the Yankees. Smith is being asked often in trade talks and his positioning helps with keeping his value high.