Athletics' Kevin Smith Has The Bat For Third And Glove For Short
At points in his career, Kevin Smith’s bat has been his nemesis.
A solid defensive shortstop, the 25-year-old has frequently struggled to present enough offense to convince he had an MLB future.
Then something clicked in the summer of 2021. Smith made a number of adjustments to his swing and set-up, and the result was a big season. At Triple-A Buffalo he hit .285/.370/.561 with 21 home runs and 18 stolen bases in 94 games.
The offensive surge earned Smith a callup to Toronto and then convinced the Athletics that he needed to be included in the return for third baseman Matt Chapman.
With Oakland in the midst of a tear-down cycle before a rebuild, it dealt Chapman to the Blue Jays for a packaged headlined by Smith and 2021 first-round righthander Gunnar Hoglund.
“We think he’s a guy on the upswing,” A’s assistant general manager Dan Feinstein said. “He had a really good year in 2018 in the Midwest League. What he did last year was pretty eye-opening. He’s a guy we targeted for what he can do with the bat.”
Smith will probably begin by competing for the third base job, though his background is mostly at short. Elvis Andrus returns at shortstop, though things could change as the team wheels and deals.
“He has plus power,” Feinstein said of Smith. “He has enough power to play third, and enough defense to play short.”
Smith grew up in the suburbs of Albany, N.Y., before moving on to Maryland. He showed power in college but his average never topped .273. The Blue Jays made him a fourth-round pick in 2017.
Smith's full-season debut the following year included 25 homers, 29 steals and a .302 average combined at both Class A levels. The hits stopped when he batted . 219 at Double-A in 2019 and lost 2020 to the pandemic.
Now comes that big opportunity with Oakland, where Smith will have the chance to show he belongs in the big leagues. His bat has now become his best friend.
— Outfielder Cody Thomas had surgery involving a debridement of his Achilles tendon and heel. The organization's goal is for him to return at some point in the season.
— Feinstein watched Ryan Cusick and Joey Estes throw their first bullpens for the A’s after being acquired from the Braves in the Matt Olson trade. He reported that both pitchers were quite impressive. “Cusick has top-of-the-rotation stuff, no question,” Feinstein said. “Mid-to-upper 90s with the fastball, with good downward life.”