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.

Mallex Stealing
Mallex Smith leads all MiLB players with 144 stolen bases since the 2014 season. (Source: Gwinnett Braves – AAA Affiliate of Atlanta Braves)

Mallex Smith

Centerfielder (OF)

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.

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5 thoughts on “MLBs Next Wave of Young Stars: Mallex Smith

  1. Thanks Tom I appreciate the praise it will be good to keep up with your site as it seems like we post on similar topics.

    I 100% agree with him staying within himself and knowing what type of player he is. A prototypical leadoff hitter by trade the way he plays. The BABIP, K rate, and BB rate are all statistics worth mentioning in the analysis of Smith. I think you have found the key problem behind his struggles (even know his stats aren’t that terrible for a rookie) in these stats. Based off of those statistics it seems as if he must not be swinging at the right pitches in his at bats. A high K rate coupled with a low BB rate and low BABIP all point toward his plate discipline. Notably, swinging at pitches out of the strike zone. You mentioned, he will likely improve in all of these categories and given the small sample size of 99 plate appearances I think this is just a big adjustment period for him. Overall your analysis on Smith seems to be spot on.

    This is a really tough call on the Albies/Swanson debate. Scouts rate them very similarly in the field. I think Albies is the better pure fielder just watching videos on him. On the other hand, you couldn’t go wrong putting Swanson at short either. I think Albies will get the call up sooner than Swanson the way he has been tearing up the minors. Given that, Albies will likely get thrown into the shortstop role (since Aybar can’t even come close to the Mendoza currently) if he proves what scouts have been saying about his fielding, speed, contact at the plate from both sides, he will likely lock up the job at short. I’d like to see a Swanson/Albies combo up the middle and for them to get some power at third base in the future. But that’s just me. I don’t think you can go wrong one way or the other it’s just going to come down to who has then better showing when they get called up.

    Keep up the good work Tom. I look forward to reading more of your posts.

    -JD

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  2. JD thanks for checking out the article, combed through your site and love what you are doing.

    Totally agree with your concerns about Mallex and the necessity for him to get on base. Although his current OBP of .281 is obviously concerning, I believe that his ability to get on base will improve with experience for a few reasons. Smith’s short compact swing is exactly what you would want a lead-off hitter to have, as silly as it sounds its a positive sign that he is not trying to be someone he’s not. More tangibly, Smith currently has a .317 BABIP (Batting Average On Balls In Play) which I find to be quite low for a player with the elite speed Smith has. You are correct though, plate discipline will be a crucial factor in determining whether Smith will be an above-average MLB CF or a defensive replacement off of the bench. In his 99 MLB plate appearances Mallex’s strikeout or “K” rate is 26.3% and his Walk or “BB” rate is 5.1%, which are both significantly worse than his track record in the minors suggest. Naturally the level of pitching at the MLB level is significantly better in terms of control and movement of pitches, but his double-digit BB rate to me implies that his performance up until now at the MLB level has been below what I expect him to be with time.

    Ozzie Albies is a phenomenal prospect and I totally agree with your take on the Swanson / Albies combination, can never have enough elite young prospects up the middle. Will certainly look to cover those prospects at some point…where do you see each of them in the long term? Albies looks to be an MLB shortstop and is the younger of the two, so my guess would be the Braves keep him at SS and try Swanson at either 2B or 3B. Thanks again for reading and looking forward to reading more of your work.

    Best,
    Tom

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I’m not sold on Smith just yet. A .281 on base percentage right now is alarming. With his speed he needs to know how to get on base at a good clip. That’s the only way he can make it in the league. If he fails to do so this season he’s going to be interchanged for another outfielder in the Braves deep farm system. There is no benefit to having an outfielder with plus speed, and no power in the lineup when he doesn’t get on base. He’s going to have to learn plate discipline quick because the braves will continue their rebuilding process and call people up and down at a much higher rate than most teams. Check out Ozzie Albies he’s a 19 year old shortstop in the braves farm system. One of their best prospects in the last couple years in my opinion. A plus fielder and very good contact hitter with speed. Albies and Swanson could be a cornerstone of the Braves franchise for the next 10-15 years if they pan out. I’d like to know your take on it.

    Check out my blog https://savagesportsblog.wordpress.com.

    Liked by 1 person

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