The wealth of talented young players in MLB today has never been rivaled; we are on the cusp of witnessing greatness in the likes of: Carlos Correa, Kris Bryant, Mike Trout and Bryce Harper. You will be absolutely shocked if you look at a list of the current MLB stars aged 25 and younger, the sheer number of players performing at an all-star level at such a young age is staggering.
While we are all familiar with the Noah Syndergaard and Nolan Arenados of the league, in this multi-part series we will explore some of the budding MLB stars of tomorrow, that we may not necessarily know today. So why don’t we begin in Atlanta with the Braves’ 23 year-old Centerfielder, the ultra-athletic Mallex Smith.
Bats: Left / Throws: Right
Height: 5′ 9″ / Weight: 180 lbs.
DOB: May 6th, 1993 (23 years)
Drafted 165th Overall in 2012 MLB Draft
Path to the Majors
Mallex Smith made his major league debut early in the 2016 season, when Ender Inciarte was forced to the Disabled List (“DL”) with a hamstring injury. Although the speedy young Centerfielder may have been called up to the big leagues sooner than anticipated, there is no doubt that there is a bright future for Smith in Atlanta.
Smith was named the Atlanta Braves’ Minor League Player of the Year in 2015, producing a gaudy 57 stolen bases with a .303 batting average and .371 on-base percentage, while splitting time between AAA Gwinnett and AA Mississippi. Meanwhile in 2014 at just 21 years of age, Smith produced a .310 batting average, .403 on-base percentage and 88 stolen bases.
Areas of Improvement
For everything Smith brings to the table in terms of speed, plate discipline and fielding ability; the one tool of his game that is totally null is his power at the plate. It would be surprising if Smith ever cracks the 10 home run threshold during the course of a big league season. That being said, Smith provides more than enough value in other areas of the game to offset his lack of power.
Additionally many of the scouting reports I have read have indicated that Smith is not entirely precise in his route efficiency to balls batted into the outfield. What this means is that Smith is not entirely capitalizing on his elite speed while playing Centerfield. With big league coaching and a bit of seasoning under his belt, I entirely expect Mallex to improve upon this area and develop into one of the best defensive outfielders in the MLB.
Outlook & MLB Comparisons
Mallex Smith certainly appears to be the Centerfielder and lead-off hitter of the future for the rebuilding Atlanta Braves. One of the acquired assets for the Braves when the organization traded Justin Upton to the San Diego Padres, Smith may not be the flashiest prospect but is exactly the type of player that the Braves were hoping for.
MLB Comparisons: Denard Span & Delino DeShields Jr.