Cubs' Smith Looking To Prove He Belongs





CHICAGO—Marquez Smith played alongside Tyler Colvin with Clemson in 2006. They are likely to be reunited next spring in Arizona, but Smith needs to elevate his play if he's going to make it a lasting reunion.

It's clear the Cubs like both of the one-time Tigers. They selected Colvin in the first round in 2006 and twice drafted Smith, in the 35th round as a junior in '06 and again in the seventh round as a senior in '07 after he opted to return to college.

A 5-foot-10, 210-pound righthanded-hitting third baseman with power, Smith has completed his climb through the Cubs farm system but still has work to do. He hit .314 with 17 home runs in 303 at-bats at Triple-A Iowa last season but suffered a double-barrel attack on his ego in the fall.

Cubs general manager Jim Hendry declined to add him to the 40-man roster, then he went unclaimed in the Rule 5 draft. He's a candidate to be invited to big league camp but few see him as a possible bridge between Aramis Ramirez and Josh Vitters.

"We have got good evaluators and people that are excited about him," said Cubs manager Mike Quade, who hasn't seen Smith play. "I'm anxious to see him . . . (He's) another good, young player from what I understand."

Smith, 25, has moved a step at a time through the farm system, producing but not drawing much attention. He has a solid career slash line in the minors (.283/.358/.481) and has never struck out 100 times in a season. He has some versatility, playing second base as well as third, but lacks the tools that often get someone labeled as a prospect—speed and a plus arm.

His bat helped carry Iowa to a season in which it tied for the Pacific Coast League lead in wins. But he failed to continue to hit during an assignment in winter ball, hitting .247/.354/.454 in 97 at-bats for Aragua of the Venezuelan League. He returned home in early December to await word about a possible invitation to big-league camp.

Cubbyhole

• After considering his options elsewhere, outfielder Brad Snyder re-signed with the Cubs. He hit .308 with 25 home runs and 106 RBIs for Iowa last season.

• Switch-hitting shortstop Marwin Gonzalez continued a breakout winter at the plate for Caracas in the Venezuelan League. He was hitting .315 with two homers and 32 RBIs through his first 47 games. He had only four less walks (23) than strikeouts (27). Gonzalez hit .246 as the primary shortstop for Double-A Tennessee last season.